The Legend of the Condor Heroes Chapter 36-40 (End)

Chapter 36 – Expedition to the West

Huang Rong quietly said, “I appreciate Uncle Ouyang’s compliments to me. Too bad Guo Jing is so gullible that right now he doesn’t even want to live in the same world as my father and I. After you save my father, if your nephew were still alive, ay! Couldn’t the marriage proposal of the past be pursued further?”

Ouyang Feng’s heart was stirred, “What is she getting at by bringing this matter up?” he pondered. In the meantime, Huang Rong continued, “Shagu, this good brother is very nice to you, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” Shagu answered, “He is going to take me home. I don’t want to play on that island anymore, I want to go home.” “What are you going to do at home?” Huang Rong asked, “There is a dead man in your house; there is a ghost there.” “Ah!” Shagu cried, she was scared, “Ah! There is a ghost in my house, a ghost! I don’t want to go home.”

“Who killed that man?” Huang Rong asked.

“I saw it, it was this good brother …” Shagu answered, but before she finished, ‘bing! bing!’ a couple of metallic sounds were heard, two secret projectiles fell down on the ground.

Huang Rong laughed, “Xiao Wangye [Young Prince], you don’t want her to talk? Fine. Just don’t use secret projectiles to hurt her.” Yang Kang was indignant, “This idiot talked nonsense, with ghost and everything.”

“Shagu,” Huang Rong said, “You can keep talking. This nice Yeye [grandpa] loved to hear your story.” “No,” Shagu answered, “Good brother doesn’t want Shagu to talk, Shagu won’t talk.”

“That’s right,” Yang Kang said, “Go lie down and sleep. If you open your mouth for just one more word, I’ll have the ghost come over and eat you.”

Shagu was very scared, “Oh, Oh,” she said. Then Ke Zhen’E heard some rustling sound. It was Shagu’s clothes, she lied down and slept.

“Shagu,” Huang Rong said, “If you don’t want to talk to me, I’ll get Yeye to take you back to the Island.” “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go,” Shagu scried.

“Then you’ll have to talk,” Huang Rong said, “This good brother has killed someone in your house; what kind of man has he killed?” Everybody felt strange on why she suddenly wanted to talk about Yang Kang killing a man.

Yang Kang’s heart was thumping loudly, he got his right hand ready; as soon as Shagu revealed his secret about him killing someone at the Ox Village, even if it would arouse Ouyang Feng’s suspicion, he would use the ‘Nine Yin White-bone Claw’ to kill Shagu. He was wondering in his heart at the same time, “When I killed Ouyang Ke, only Mu Nianci, Cheng Yaojia and Lu Guanying, three people saw it. Did any one of them leak the secret? Hmm, it is likely that Shagu was also there to witness it, I was not being careful.”

The temple was quiet and everybody was waiting for Shagu to open her mouth. Ke Zhen’E could feel the tension, but he did not dare to make a slightest move. After waiting for half a day Shagu still did not say anything, only her light snore was heard; apparently she had fallen asleep.

Yang Kang breathed out a sigh of relief; his palm was sweating cold, “This Shagu poses a great danger to me,” he thought, “I must think of a way to get rid of her.” He cast his glance toward Ouyang Feng who was sitting quietly with his eyes closed. The moon illuminated the side of his face. He looked indifferent, seemed like he was unconcerned of everything that was going on around him.

Everybody else thought Huang Rong was just talking nonsense. Shagu was asleep; looked like the case was closed. They started to lie down or sat leaning against the wall, trying to get some sleep.

Just when the moon was rising higher they heard Shagu’s startled voice. She jumped up and shouted, “Don’t hurt me! Ouch, it hurt!”

With shrilling voice Huang Rong cried, “Ghost! Ghost! It’s a ghost without legs! Shagu, you killed that young mister without legs; he is coming to get you!”

In the quietness of the night Huang Rong’s voice made the hair on everybody’s back rose up.

“No!” Shagu cried, “It wasn’t me! It was this good brother …” she had not finished when suddenly ‘Ah!’ ‘Bang!’ ‘Aiyo!’ were heard simultaneously. Yang Kang abruptly sprang up, his arms outstretched, his fingers forming a claw heading straight toward Shagu’s skull, but Huang Rong had used her dog-beating stick to entangle his legs.

The temple was in chaos; Sha Tongtian and the others immediately surrounded Huang Rong. Huang Rong, however, seemed oblivious to all this, her left index finger pointed toward the temple’s door; she cried out, “Mister with no legs, come here, Shagu is here!”

Shagu looked at the temple door. It was dark, so all she could see was blackness, but she was always scared of ghosts ever since she was little; quickly she pulled Huang Rong’s sleeve and cried in panic, “Don’t come to take my life, it was this good brother who killed you with an iron spearhead. I was in the kitchen watching through the door … ghost with no legs, don’t come looking for me!”

Not in a million years would Ouyang Feng guess that his beloved nephew was killed by Yang Kang; yet he always thought that Yang Kang was unable to tell lies. Obviously Shagu could not lie.

Sad and angry he laughed maniacally, casting a sharp glance toward Yang Kang. “Xiao Wangye, my nephew deserved to die. It’s good that you killed him, it’s good!” he said. His laughter sent a chill on everybody’s spine; his voice was very mournful, making ears buzzing like innumerable needles were piercing their eardrums at the same time. Everybody was trembling, their teeth chattered. There were thousands of white-head crows on the temple’s pagoda that night; Ouyang Feng’s laughter startled them. ‘Caw! Caw! Caw!’ they were crying noisily and then they flew away loudly flapping their wings.

Yang Kang thought he would not live to see another day; both eyes looking left and right, trying to find a way to escape.

Wanyan Honglie was also secretly frightened. After the crows noise subsided he said, “This girl is insane, Mister Ouyang, how can you believe what she said? Your honorable nephew came by Xiao Wangye’s invitation because Xiao Wang [lit. little king – he was referring to himself] is relying heavily on his assistance. How could Xiao Wangye harm him without any reason?”

Seemingly without making any effort Ouyang Feng stood up, his body glided over and with a slight bend on his knees he landed on Shagu’s side. His left hand grabbed Shagu’s arm. “Why did he kill my nephew? Speak up!” he roared.

Shagu was scared to death. “I didn’t kill him, don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!” she cried. She struggled hard, but Ouyang Feng’s grip was like a pair of steel pliers, how could Shagu free herself? The more she struggled, the harder his grip became. Shagu was frightened and cried, “Mama!”

Ouyang Feng repeated his question several times; Shagu became so scared from crying that she did not dare to cry anymore. She only stared at Ouyang Feng’s face with a blank expression.

“Shagu,” Huang Rong soothingly said, “Don’t be afraid, this nice grandpa is going to give you a cake.”

Her words reminded Ouyang Feng. He realized that if he used force, Shagu would not dare to talk; therefore, he groped inside his pocket and produced a dried and already cold steamed bun and held it out to Shagu’s hand. “That’s right! Here, you can eat this cake.”

Shagu grabbed the bun, her fear was gone. “Yeye, you grabbed my arm, it hurt, you must not grab me anymore,” she said. “Good Shagu, you are an obedient child,” Ouyang Feng warmly said, “Yeye won’t grab your arm anymore.”

Huang Rong said, “That day the mister without legs was hugging a lady. Tell me, was she pretty?” Shagu nodded. “Very pretty. I wonder where she is going.”

Huang Rong asked again, “Do you know who she is? You don’t know, do you?”

Shagu’s face lit, she was so proud of herself; she clapped her hands and said, “I know, I know! She is this good brother’s wife!”

Hearing this, any doubt left in Ouyang Feng’s heart was gone. He knew his nephew’s lecherous character; it must be because of Mu Nianci that his nephew met his fate. But, Ouyang Ke’s martial art was higher than Yang Kang’s; even though his legs were injured, Yang Kang was still not his match; he could not figure out how Yang Kang was able to kill him? He turned his head toward Yang Kang and said, “My nephew was oblivious to what’s good and what’s not, he dared to offend the Xiao Wangye’s concubine; he deserved to die ten thousand times.”

“No … No …” Yang Kang stammered. “It wasn’t me …” “Then who?” Ouyang Feng sternly asked.

Yang Kang was so scared that his knees turned into rubber, cold sweats pouring down his forehead; his usual shrewdness was gone, he was unable to utter a single word.

Huang Rong sighed, “Uncle Ouyang, you can’t blame the Xiao Wangye of being heartless, you can’t blame your nephew flirtatious character either, you have only your superb martial art to blame.”

“How so?” Ouyang Feng was puzzled.

Huang Rong answered, “I don’t know why, but in that house at the Ox Village I heard a couple, a man and a woman, were talking. I do not understand what they were discussing.”

Listening to this muddy talk with so many unknown Ouyang Feng was more confounded, “What did they say?” he asked.

Huang Rong answered, “I will repeat what they said word for word, I won’t add or subtract a single word; please Uncle hear me out. I did not see their faces, I don’t know who the man was, I don’t know who the woman was either; what I heard was that man said, ‘If this fact that I killed Ouyang Ke ever leaks out, won’t that be a disaster?’ That woman replied, ‘A real man is not afraid to take responsibility of his action. If you are afraid, you shouldn’t have killed him yesterday. Even though his uncle is very fierce, we can run away to some far away place, he won’t be able to find us.’”

Listening to Huang Rong, Ouyang Feng said, “That woman was right. What did the man say?”

While these two were talking, one asked the questions and the other answered, Yang Kang was getting more and more afraid than ever. The moon cast its light through the temple’s door, throwing a slanting column of light illuminating the face of the temple’s idol. Yang Kang slowly moved away from the light, quietly walked toward Huang Rong’s back. He heard Huang Rong answered Ouyang Feng’s question.

“That man said, ‘Meizi [sister/beloved], I have another thought: his uncle’s martial art is unparalleled, I wanted to take him as my master, I have had this thought for a while, but they followed a very strict rule: they only take one disciple per generation. Now that this man is dead, his uncle might take me as his disciple!”

Huang Rong did not mention anybody’s name, but she had an uncanny ability to imitate Yang Kang’s accent. Yang Kang grew up in the northern area, but Bai Xirou, his mother, was a native of Lin’an in the south; so Yang Kang’s accent was a mixture between northerners and southerners. As soon as Huang Rong said these things, everybody knew it was Yang Kang she was imitating.

Ouyang Feng laughed coldly; he turned his head but did not see Yang Kang.

Suddenly they heard ‘whack!’, then ‘Aiyo!’ Someone was crying in alarm. They saw Yang Kang standing under the moonlight with blood dripping from his right hand, his face was deathly pale.

Turned out that when Yang Kang heard Huang Rong was revealing his secret he could not restrain himself much longer; he leaped ferociously, his claw was aimed toward Huang Rong’s head. As Huang Rong imitated Yang Kang’s accent, she was fully aware he would certainly attack her; therefore, she had guarded against this attack from the start. Her martial art level was higher than Yang Kang’s. As soon as she heard the gust of wind she leaned her head sideways to elude, so the claw fell on her shoulder. Yang Kang had launched the ‘Nine Yin White-bone Claw’ with all his might, his five fingers landed on the soft hedgehog armor Huang Rong was wearing. A shot of pain traveled from his fingers to his brain; he almost pass out.

The others were clueless as whether it was Yang Kang who made the sneak attack, or was it Huang Rong or Ouyang Feng who attacked him. They were all scared of Ouyang Feng, so nobody dared to say anything.

Wanyan Honglie rushed forward, trying to help. “Kang’er, what happened to you? Where does it hurt?” he asked. Casually he took out the dagger on his belt and placed it on Yang Kang’s hand. He realized Ouyang Feng would not have good intention. He was hoping that in a chaotic battle they, father and son, would be able to save their lives.

Enduring his pain Yang Kang said, “I am all right.” He held out his hand to grab the dagger, but his hand was numb, ‘clank!’ the dagger fell on the floor. Hastily he stooped down to pick it up, but strangely his arm was stiff; it did not want to follow his command anymore. He was extremely shocked. He tried to pinch his right arm with his left fingers, but he did not feel anything. He looked up toward Huang Rong and cried out in horror, “Poison! Poison! You used poison to harm me!”

Peng Lianhu and the others knew they were going to offend Ouyang Feng, but Wanyan Honglie was the Great Jin’s prominent Prince; surely this Ouyang Ke affair could be discussed peacefully later. Seeing Yang Kang’s frightened expression, they immediately rushed forward to offer words of sympathy and called out to Huang Rong, “Quickly give the antidote to Xiao Wangye!” but everybody stayed as far as possible from Ouyang Feng.

Huang Rong was indifferent, “Don’t make a fuss; my soft hedgehog armor does not have any poison on it. There is somebody here who wants to kill him, I don’t have to lift a finger to harm him.”

But suddenly Yang Kang shouted, “I … I … I can’t move!” His knees buckled, his body slowly slid down, his mouth was producing a growling noise much like a wild beast.

Huang Rong felt strange and she turned toward Ouyang Feng, but saw that he was carrying a puzzled expression as well. She turned back toward Yang Kang, she saw Yang Kang was strangely happy, a crack of smile appeared on the corners of his mouth. Under the silvery moonlight he looked inhumanly ghastly. Suddenly a thought came into her mind, she said, “It was Uncle Ouyang who poisoned you.”

Ouyang Feng was puzzled, “From the look of him, it was indeed my marvelous snake’s poison. I had wanted him to taste it, this little girl had done it on my behalf. Wonderful! Wonderful! But those snakes, I am the only one in this world who owns them, where did the little girl get it from?”

“Where can I get that kind of snakes?” Huang Rong asked, “This is your own poison, you have unwittingly poison him yourself.” “You are talking weird,” Ouyang Feng said.

“Uncle Ouyang,” Huang Rong said, “I remember your bet against the Old Urchin. You took the poison from your snakes and feed it to a shark. As this shark died of the poison, the second shark ate its flesh and died of the same poison. This way the poison was spreading endlessly. Isn’t that so?”

Ouyang Feng laughed, “If my poison is not extraordinary, won’t my title ‘Western Poison’ be in vain?” “That’s right,” Huang Rong said, “Nan Xiren was the first shark.”

By that time Yang Kang was already rolling around on the ground like a madman. Liang Ziweng wanted to comfort him, but how could he stop him?

Ouyang Feng ignored everything, he knitted his eyebrows trying to understand what Huang Rong was saying, but it was still dark to him. “Please elaborate,” he said.

“Hmm, you used your viper to bite Nan Xiren. That day I came across him on the Peach Blossom Island and he hit me. His fist landed on my left shoulder. The sharp needles of my soft hedgehog armor punctured his hand, so his poisonous blood was transferred to my soft hedgehog armor, which became the second shark. When Xiao Wangye attacked me, heaven’s net tightened, his claw grabbed my shoulder. Nan Xiren’s poisoned blood was transferred once again to him. Hey, hey, he is the third shark.”

Hearing Huang Rong’s explanation everybody realized how deathly Ouyang Feng’s poison was. They also remembered Yang Kang’s treacherous plan in killing the Five Freaks; in the end it was Nan Xiren’s blood which kill him. It was truly a revenge well-deserved. A chill crept into everybody’s back.

Wanyan Honglie walked toward Ouyang Feng, knelt in front of him and asked, “Mr. Ouyang, please help save my son’s life; Xiao Wang will always remember your benevolence.”

Ouyang Feng laughed sinisterly, “Your son’s life is a life indeed, my nephew’s life was not a life!” His gaze swept through Peng Lianhu and the others’ faces and coldly said, “Which hero does not agree with me, please speak up!” Everybody recoiled simultaneously. Who would dare to open his mouth?

Yang Kang suddenly leaped up, ‘bang!’ he hit Liang Ziweng, sending him somersaulted in the air and passed out. Wanyan Honglie stood up, calling, “Quick! Take Xiao Wangye back to Lin’an; we’ll find a good doctor to cure his injury.” Ouyang Feng laughed, “Who in this world can neutralize The Old Poison’s venom? Which doctor won’t want to live and dare to mess up my handiwork?”

Wanyan Honglie ignored him, he shouted toward his martial artists, “What are you waiting for? Quickly take Xiao Wangye away.”

Suddenly Yang Kang jumped high until his head almost hit the beam. He pointed his finger at Wanyan Honglie and he shouted, “You are not my father! You killed my mother, now you kill me!”

Wanyan Honglie stepped back and stumbled down. Sha Tongtian said, “Xiao Wangye, please calm down.” He stepped forward to grab Yang Kang’s arms. Unexpectedly Yang Kang flipped his hand to push away Sha Tongtian’s hand and quickly seized his arm. Yang Kang’s left hand formed a claw scratching Sha Tongtian’s arm.

Sha Tongtian cried in pain, hastily he rolled backward to escape, but a moment later he felt itchiness on his arm. He was terror- stricken!

“This is the fourth shark,” Huang Rong coldly said.

Peng Lianhu and Sha Tongtian were good friends, moreover, Peng Lianhu was also an expert poison user, he knew Sha Tongtian was poisoned and his life was in grave danger. In this critical moment almost without thinking he took the saber from his waist and swiftly chopped Sha Tongtian’s arm halfway down.

Hou Tonghai did not understand Peng Lianhu’s good intention, “Peng Lianhu, you dare to hurt my ‘Shige’? [Elder martial brother]” He charged Peng Lianhu disregarding his own safety.

Sha Tongtian endured the pain and shouted, “Idiot, back-off! Brother Peng was saving my life!”

By this time Yang Kang’s mind was cloudy, he was charging to the east and striking to the west, kicking and biting randomly. Everybody saw what happened to Sha Tongtian, nobody dared to come close to him; shouting and yelling they darted out of the temple.

It was a very chaotic situation; the crows on the pagoda were startled, they flew around in confusion under the moonlight around the temple’s courtyard. Their noisy cries intermingled with Yang Kang’s neighing voice.

As Wanyan Honglie was heading toward the temple door he turned his head one more time and called out, “Kang’er! Kang’er!”

Yang Kang’s eyes were brimming with tears; he also called out, “Fu Wang! Fu Wang! [Father King]” He walked toward Wanyan Honglie.

Wanyan Honglie was delighted, he spread out his arms and hugged Yang Kang tightly, “Child, are you feeling better?”

Under the moonlight Yang Kang’s face suddenly changed; he opened his mouth, revealing two rows of white teeth, ready to bite. Wanyan Honglie was shocked. His left hand pushed out, breaking the hug. Yang Kang’s strength was completely gone; he fell backwards. He struggled hard to crawl back up to no avail.

Wanyan Honglie did not dare to linger much longer, without looking back he hurriedly went out the temple, mounted his horse and ran as fast as he could. The others were close on his heels, and in a short moment the temple was quiet again.

Ouyang Feng and Huang Rong saw Yang Kang was rolling around on the ground, each with his/her own thought, nobody said anything. A moment later Yang Kang’s body curled up and then ceased to move altogether.

“Enough commotion for half a night,” Ouyang Feng coldly said, “It’s almost daybreak; let us go looking for your father.” “Right now my father is on the Peach Blossom Island,” Huang Rong said, “Why do you want to look for him?”

Ouyang Feng was taken aback, “So the little girl was lying all along,” he sneered.

“The first few sentences were indeed to swindle you,” Huang Rong admitted, “What kind of man do you think my father is? How could he let himself surrounded by a bunch of stinky Quanzhen priests? If I did not mention the Nine Yin Manual you wouldn’t let me interrogate Shagu.”

By this time Ke Zhen’E had totally admired Huang Rong, but he was sad and full of regret at the same time. He only hoped she would find a clever trick to escape soon. He heard Ouyang Feng said, “There were three parts truth in your lies, otherwise, the Old Poison wouldn’t be so easily deceived. All right then, recite your father’s translation to me from the beginning to the end, don’t skip even half a word.”

“What if I don’t remember?” Huang Rong asked.

“It will be best if you remember, otherwise the beautiful face of a smart little girl would be bitten by my snakes, now that won’t be fun, will it?” Ouyang Feng threatened.

When Huang Rong jumped out from behind the idol she was ready to die; but seeing Yang Kang’s pitiful death she could not help but feeling frightened. She thought, “Even if I give him Reverend Yideng’s translation he still won’t let me go. Is it so difficult to escape from his grip?” She paced back and forth for a while but still could not think of a good way to escape, so she decided to buy some time and think again later. “If I read the original text I might remember the interpretation. Why don’t you recite it to me, let me try explaining it to you,” she said.

“Who could memorize these mumbo jumbo sentences?” Ouyang Feng said, “You don’t have to confuse me.”

As she heard Ouyang Feng was not able to recite it from memory Huang Rong got a sudden inspiration. After contemplating it back and forth she came to a conclusion, “He can’t memorize it, so he must treat the manual as precious as his life.” She quickly said, “All right then, take out the manual and read it to me.”

Ouyang Feng was determined to hear the explanation; immediately he took an oil-cloth package from his pocket, after opening three layers of cloth he produced Guo Jing’s altered manual from it. Huang Rong was amused, “Jing Gege wrote a whole bunch of nonsense, yet the Old Poison treats it as the most precious object.”

Ouyang Feng lighted a fire and found a half-burned candle from the worship table, with which light he started to read the manual, “Hu bu er, ken xing duo de, si gen liu bu.”

“That means ‘differentiate it well then divide it into twelve air passages’,” Huang Rong said. Ouyang Feng was delighted, “Ji er wen hua si, ha hu,” he read again.

“Capable of healing various illness, gradually entering divine perfection,” Huang Rong said. Ouyang Feng read, “Qu da bie si tu, en ni qu.”

Huang Rong hesitated for a moment, shaking her head she said, “Not right, you did not read correctly.” “No, I read it correctly,” Ouyang Feng said, “That is what was written.”

“That’s strange,” Huang Rong said, “How come it’s so muddled?” Her left hand on her head, she pretended to be thinking hard.

Ouyang Feng was anxious. He stared at her, hoping she would find the answer quickly. A moment later Huang Rong exclaimed, “Ah, I know! It must be that dumb kid Guo Jing writing it wrong. Let me see.”

Ouyang Feng was not afraid Huang Rong would steal it from him, he handed the manual over. Huang Rong held out her right hand to take the manual, while her left hand took the candlestick, pretending to examine the manual closely. Suddenly her feet kicked the ground; she leaped backward for more than a ‘zhang’ [10 feet/3 meter]. She held the manual within half a ‘chi’ [approximately half a foot] to the candle and shouted, “Uncle Ouyang, this manual is fake, I’d better burn it down.”

Ouyang Feng was shocked, hastily said, “Hey, hey, what are you doing? Quickly give that back to me.” Huang Rong smiled, “Do you want the manual, or my life?”

“What do I want your life for? Quickly give that back to me,” Ouyang Feng said. His voice was urgent, unusually anxious. His body leaned forward as if ready to strike anytime.

Huang Rong held the manual two more inches closer to the candle. “Stop! I am going to burn this manual as soon as you move one more step, then you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

Ouyang Feng silently agreed with what she said. “Humph, you win,” he said, “Put that manual down and go before I change my mind!”

“You are a grand master of your school, you must not go back on your own words,” Huang Rong said. Ouyang Feng calmly said, “I said just put the manual down and you can go.”

Huang Rong knew that he was a proud man; although he was evil and cruel he had never broken his promise to anybody, so she put the manual along with the candle on the ground and smiled, “Uncle Ouyang, please excuse me.” Carrying her dog-beating stick she turned around and walked away.

Contrary to what she was expecting, Ouyang Feng did not even look at her. He jumped back and with a loud ‘bang!’ he smashed the Wang Yanzhang idol with the back of his hand, the idol broke halfway down. “Blind man Ke, roll out!” he shouted.

Huang Rong was startled; she turned her head only to see Ke Zhen’E had jumped out from behind the idol, brandishing his iron spear in front of his body. Huang Rong immediately realized her misjudgment, “With the Old Poison’s ability how could he not know Master Ke was hiding behind the idol? He must’ve heard his breathing early on, only he waited patiently for a good opportunity to expose him.” She dashed forward quickly, standing in front of Ke Zhen’E with the bamboo stick in front of her body.

“Uncle Ouyang, I am not going, you let him go,” said Huang Rong.

“No, Rong’er, you go” Ke Zhen’E said, “Go find Jing’er, tell him to avenge our six lives.”

Huang Rong mournfully answered, “If he is ever going to believe what I say, he would have already believed what I said. Master Ke, if you don’t go, my father and I will have a hard time proving our innocence. Tell Guo Jing that I don’t blame him, tell him not to feel bad.” But how could Ke Zhen’E let her embrace danger to save his own life? Two people were bickering incessantly.

Ouyang Feng became impatient, “Little girl, I let you go, you don’t want to go. What are you waiting for?”

“I’d love to stay,” Huang Rong said, “Uncle Ouyang, get this blind man out of here, I will accompany you chit-chatting, just don’t hurt him.”

Ouyang Feng thought, “You want to stay, that was what I want. Whether this blind man lives or dies, what does it have anything to do with me?” With big strides he went forward, holding out his hand to grab Ke Zhen’E on his chest.

Ke Zhen’E moved his spear to attack the incoming hand. Ouyang Feng raised his arm a little bit and Ke Zhen’E’s arms were numb, he felt pressure on his chest. ‘Clank!’ his spear flew upward, made a hole on the ceiling and landed on the temple’s roof.

Ke Zhen’E hastily leaped backward, but before his feet landed on the floor he felt his collar was pulled, his body was hung in front of Ouyang Feng. His battle experience was vast; in this dangerous moment he did not get nervous. His left hand moved slightly and two ‘du ling’ [poisonous water chestnut] flew toward the enemy’s face.

Ouyang Feng did not anticipate that in the face of danger Ke Zhen’E was still able to attack. They were very close to each other, the incoming attack was strong, it was difficult to parry; Ouyang Feng bent his body backward but his hand did not let Ke Zhen’E go, Ke Zhen’E was thrown across the top of his head.

When he jumped out from behind the idol Ke Zhen’E was facing the temple’s door, so Ouyang Feng’s throw made him fly out of the door. Because Ouyang Feng’s force was so strong, Ke Zhen’E’s body was actually flying faster than his own ‘du ling’. The ‘du ling’ missed Ouyang Feng’s head and flew straight toward Ke Zhen’E’s body.

“Aiyo!” Huang Rong cried out. But she saw that while he was airborne Ke Zhen’E was able to turn his body slightly, stretched out his right hand and deftly caught his own two ‘du ling’s. His ability to hear and differentiate secret-projectiles wind had been trained to near perfection; his ears could hear as clearly as other people could see.

“You are good!” Ouyang Feng exclaimed, “Blind man Ke, I’ll let you go.”

Ke Zhen’E landed on his feet, he was reluctant to go. Huang Rong laughed, “Master Ke, Ouyang Feng wanted to be my disciple; he wants to learn the Nine Yin Manual from me. You still want to stay; do you also want to be my disciple?”

Ke Zhen’E knew that although Huang Rong talked jokingly, but her situation was extremely precarious. He stood on the temple courtyard, but was hesitant to go.

Ouyang Feng looked up to the sky and said, “It’s daybreak. Let’s go!” Pulling Huang Rong’s hand they walked out the temple’s door.

“Master Ke, remember the letter I wrote on your palm,” Huang Rong called out. They moved really fast, Huang Rong’s last few words were heard from several ‘zhang’s away.

Ke Zhen’E stayed motionless for a long time. He heard flock upon flock of crows that came into the temple to feast on the corpse, so he leaped onto the roof to find his spear pole. Leaning against his pole on the roof again he stayed motionless for a while, thinking the heaven and earth are boundless, but what kind of place could a blind man like him call home? Then he heard the crows cried mournfully and they dropped to the ground one by one. Turned out those crows were feasting on Yang Kang’s corpse and they were poisoned one after another. Ke Zhen’E could not help but heaving a long sighed. He jumped back down to the ground, wielding his spear he walked to the north.

On the third day suddenly he heard eagle cry high up in the sky. He thought that if the birds were close by, then Guo Jing must not be very far; therefore, he raised his voice and shouted in the middle of the wilderness, “Jing’er, Jing’er!”

Not too long afterwards he heard hoof beats; it was indeed Guo Jing riding the little red horse coming toward him. He was separated from Ke Zhen’E in the chaotic battle the other night; this time he saw his master was well his joy was unspeakable. He did not even wait for the horse to stop; he jumped from the horseback and rushed to embrace his master, calling loudly, “Da Shifu!”

Unexpectedly Ke Zhen’E slapped him left and right until his ears were red. Guo Jing was stunned, but did not dare to fend off. He let his master off his embrace. Ke Zhen’E continued to slap Guo Jing with his left hand, while his right hand slapped his own face until his own ears were red.

Guo Jing was confounded, “Da Shifu, what happened to you?”

Ke Zhen’E viciously scolded, “You are the little muddle-head; I am the old muddle-head.”

Dozens or so slaps later he calmed down and stopped. Both men’s faces were red and swollen. Ke Zhen’E kept cursing Guo Jing and himself for half a day before finally he narrated everything that had happened in the temple.

Guo Jing was surprised yet happy, sorrowful yet ashamed, “So that’s what actually happened. I had wrongly accused Rong’er,” he thought.

“Tell me, don’t we deserve to die?” Ke Zhen’E shouted. Guo Jing agreed, he also said, “Disciple deserves to die; Da Shifu’s eyes are not perfect, you cannot be blamed.”

Ke Zhen’E was angry, “Damn it! My eyes are blind, is my heart also blind?”

Guo Jing tried to divert his attention, “We must quickly think of something to rescue Rong’er.” “What about her father?” Ke Zhen’E asked.

“Huang Daozhu [Island Master Huang] had taken Hong Enshi [Benevolent Master Hong] to recuperate on the Peach Blossom Island,” Guo Jing answered, “Da Shifu, where do you think Ouyang Feng is taking Rong’er?”

Ke Zhen’E pondered for a moment, then said, “Rong’er is in his hands, even if she did not die, I don’t know what kind of tortures she would be subjected to. Jing’er, you quickly rescue her, I am going to kill myself to thank her.”

“No!” Guo Jing cried out in alarm, “Don’t even think of doing such thing.” However, he knew his first master’s stubbornness very well, he would not listen to other people; once he said he would die, he was not going to back off; therefore, Guo Jing quickly said, “Da Shifu, you’d better go to the Peach Blossom Island to ask Huang Daozhu to lend us a hand. In all honesty, I am not Ouyang Feng’s match.”

Ke Zhen’E thought it was not a bad idea, so he picked his spear and left. Guo Jing was reluctant to part with his first master, he followed him behind. Ke Zhen’E knew he was being followed, he swung his spear backward and scolded, “You are still not going? If you don’t rescue my beloved Rong’er, I am going to take your little life!”

Guo Jing had no choice but stopped, his gaze followed his master until he disappeared beyond the mulberry grove toward the east. He had no idea where to start looking for Huang Rong. After thinking hard for quite a while he took his horse and pair of eagles and walked back to the Temple of the Iron Spear.

Around the temple he saw countless dead crows; on the courtyard he saw a pile of human remains. Guo Jing hated Yang Kang for killing his masters, but thought that Yang Kang was already dead, so he was willing to write-off that debt; moreover, he was his sworn brother. Guo Jing picked the remains and buried Yang Kang on the temple’s courtyard. He bowed in respect in front of the grave and said, “Brother Yang, if you know how I buried your remains today, you have to bless me in finding Rong’er; that way you can make up for your crimes during your lifetime.” Afterward Guo Jing started to make inquiries everywhere, trying to track Huang Rong’s trail.

Half a year had passed, autumn turned into winter, then winter turned into spring. Guo Jing, accompanied by his red horse and a pair of eagles have looked everywhere; he asked the Beggar Clan, went to the Quanzhen Sect, and inquired all Wulin characters he knew, yet nobody heard even a little bit of news about Huang Rong. He was miserable. He imagined how much suffering Huang Rong had to endure this past half a year; it was like a knife was piercing his heart. He was determined to find her, even to the end of the earth.

He had been to Yanjing, twice he had tried to find Wanyan Honglie at Bianliang, yet Wanyan Honglie also disappeared without a trace. The Beggar Clan members all over the country had tried to find their Bangzhu [Clan Leader], but still there were no words about Huang Rong. Guo Jing also stopped by the Cloud Village, but the village was burned to the ground. He did not know what kind of disaster Lu Chengfeng and Lu Guanying had encountered.

One day he arrived within the Shandong border. Nine out of ten houses he saw along the way were deserted; he barely saw other people walking around. He heard that the Mongolians and the Jins were fighting each other in that area. The Jins were defeated and while retreating they stopped at nothing; raping and plundering the people along their way.

Guo Jing walked for three more days heading north. The further he went, the more devastation he witnessed. His heart was embittered looking at the suffering of the common people as the result of war.

That day he arrived at a small village by a river bank in a valley; he was going to stop by for food and water for him as well as his horse, when suddenly he heard a commotion just ahead of him. People were screaming and horses were neighing in panic; dozens of Jin soldiers had entered the village. They set the village on fire, forcing the people to go out of their houses. If there was a young girl in the house, the soldiers would seize her and bind her with ropes. The rest of the people, young and old alike, were killed right there and then.

Guo Jing was seething with anger; he charged his horse toward the leader of this pack, snatching his spear; the back of Guo Jing’s left hand smacked his ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint. By that time Guo Jing had already reached high level in term of martial art skill; his strength was profound. With just one hit that officer’s eyes came out of their sockets and he died instantly.

The rest of the soldiers were shouting and yelling; sabers and spears attacked simultaneously. The little red horse was not afraid of battle; it dashed forward carrying Guo Jing on its back. Guo Jing snatched a saber with his left hand, and using the mutual hands combat technique he thrust the spear in his right hand and hacked the saber in his left, attacking the soldiers left and right.

As soon as the Jin soldiers saw this person’s fierceness, they lost their will to fight; they turned around and fled from the village. But suddenly a big banner appeared amidst the smoke; a squad of Mongolian soldiers had arrived. The Jin soldiers who had been defeated earlier did not dare to fight the Mongolian troops head-on so they turned back to the village, hoping they would be able to slip by Guo Jing relying on sheer numbers.

Guo Jing hated the Jin soldiers for cruelly abusing the people; he charged his horse toward the village entrance and single-handedly defending it against the intruders. About a dozen or so soldiers courageously attacked him; Guo Jing killed them all. The rest of the soldiers did not dare to attack but they could not go back either; they ran around in confusion, screaming in fear.

The Mongolian soldiers saw ahead of them somebody was helping them; they charged the rest of the Jin soldiers and killed them all. The ‘bai fu zhang’ [leader of a 100 men unit] was about to inquire Guo Jing’s background when suddenly one the Mongolian solider recognized him. That soldier shouted, “Jin dao fu ma! [the golden-blade consort]” and immediately kneeled on the ground.

The ‘bai fu zhang’ heard Guo Jing was their Great Khan’s son-in-law, he did not dare to be impolite; hastily he dismounted his horse and also kneeled on the ground while dispatching a courier to quickly inform their commander-in-chief.

The villagers, young and old, were coming out of their hiding places to thank Guo Jing when suddenly from outside the village came a loud thundering noise of cavalry’s hoof beats. The people were frightened; they looked at each other in blank dismay.

A bay horse with a black mane came fast, a young general shouted, “Where is Guo Jing Anda [Mongolian term for sworn brother]?”

Guo Jing saw it was Tuolei, he was delighted. “Tuolei Anda,” he answered. They rushed forward and hugged each other. The pair of eagles recognized Tuolei, they flew down and lovingly rubbed their necks to him.

Tuolei ordered a ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of a 1000-men unit] to pursue the Jin soldiers, while the rest of his troops pitched their tents right there on the hillside; then he told Guo Jing everything that had happened since the last time they parted.

Tuolei told the war affair of the northern countries; only then did Guo Jing find out that within the last few years Genghis Khan attacked to the east and sent expedition to the west, expanded his territory. Jochi, Chagatai, Ogedei and Tuolei, four princes; plus Mukhali, Borchu, Boroul and Chilaun, the Great Khan’s four heroes, his right-hand men, all had established many distinguished services.

Presently Tuolei and Mukhali were leading their troops to attack the Jin toward the east; they had fought several battles and utterly routed Jin’s army. The Jins ran to the fortified city of Tongguan; did not dare to come out to Shandong to fight.

Guo Jing stayed with Tuolei’s troops for several days. A fast dispatch came one day; Genghis Khan ordered all princes and generals to go back north for a general assembly. Tuolei and Mukhali did not dare to linger much longer, they assigned their second-in-commands to lead the troops and that very same night they rode north. Guo Jing missed his mother, so he came along with Tuolei to the north.

In less than a day they had arrived at the bank of River Onon. As far as eyes could see, the vast prairies were full of tents, tens of thousands of warhorses running around and neighing, tens of thousands spearheads gleaming brilliantly under the bright sun light. In the middle of countless gray tents towered a big yellow silk tent. The tent ornaments were made of cast gold; above it fluttered nine big banners.

Guo Jing’s horse stood on the river bank as he watched this awe-inspiring military prowess. He thought about how the great power in this Golden Tent had shaken the desert, wiping out the other rulers of the area. He imagined how Genghis Khan would issue his commands from the Golden Tent; then fast horses would be dispatched to deliver the orders to the tens of thousands soldiers under the princes and the generals. The bugles would sound and the beacons on the prairie would be lighted, their fires reaching the sky. Arrows would fill the sky like a swarm of locusts, spears and blades would flash, horses and infantrymen would march amidst the dust rising to the sky.

Guo Jing thought, “The Great Khan wants to amass this much land, I wonder what he wants to do with it?” Suddenly he saw the dust rise and a group of cavalry came to welcome them. Three people, Tuolei, Mukhali and Guo Jing entered the Golden Tent to see the Great Khan. To his surprise he saw all the princes and the generals were already sitting on either side of the tent.

Genghis Khan was overjoyed to see these three people. Tuolei and Mukhali immediately reported the military situation. Guo Jing stepped forward and kneeled, saying, “The Great Khan has assigned me to sever the Jin prince, Wanyan Honglie’s head. I met him several times, yet every time he was able to escape. I am ready to accept The Great Khan’s punishment.”

Genghis Khan laughed, he said, “When the young eagle grows up, there will come a day when it will catch the fox. Why would I want to punish you? You arrived just in time; I often thought about you.”

The assembly then proceeded by discussing military plans to destroy the Jins. Mukhali proposed that since the Jins occupied the fortified city of Tongguan, it would be difficult to attack; the best plan would be forming an alliance with the Southern Song and execute a converging attack.

“Good! Let us do it then,” Genghis Khan said. Immediately he assigned his secretary to write the letter and sent an envoy to go south. The general assembly convened until dusk that day.

Guo Jing left the Golden Tent, under the darkened sky he walked to his mother’s tent. Suddenly a pair of hands appeared from behind, about to cover his eyes. With his current martial art skill how could he let anybody launched a sneak attack? He leaned sideways and was going to push that person away when suddenly his nostrils caught a whiff of perfume, then he saw it was a girl. Quickly he pulled back his hand and called out, “Sister Huazheng!” It was indeed Princess Huazheng standing in the dark with smile all over her face.

They have not seen each other for several years. This time they met again, Guo Jing saw she was growing taller. She just stood there among the tall grass, her skin jade-white; she looked beautiful yet valiant. Guo Jing called again, “’Meizi! [Younger Sister, used in a more intimate way]” Huazheng was extremely happy that tears flowed down her cheeks, “You really came back!”

Guo Jing was touched by the sincere expression of her feeling. Thousands of words were dancing around his mind, but he did not know where to start.

After a few minutes of silence Huazheng said, “Go see your mother. You came back alive, guess who will be happier, your mother or I?”

“My mother will be very happy, I am sure,” Guo Jing said. Huazheng pouted, “Do you think I am not happy?”

The Mongolians were more frank, they would say what they think. Guo Jing had lived among the southerners for quite some time; unconsciously he had been influenced by the way the southerners talked. Now he went back to his childhood home and heard Huazheng talked in a friendly manner, a warm feeling filled his heart. Two people walked hand in hand toward Li Ping’s tent. Mother and son met and there were more tears of happiness.

Several days later Genghis Khan summoned Guo Jing, “I have heard your conducts and deeds from Tuolei. You keep your words and have an upright heart, I like that very much. Just wait several more days, I am going to give you my daughter’s hand in marriage.”

Guo Jing was startled, he thought, “Right now I don’t even know if Rong’er is dead or alive. How can I marry someone else?” Seeing Genghis Khan’s imposing appearance, although he wanted to disobey, he stammered and nothing intelligible came out of his mouth. Genghis Khan misunderstood his behavior; he thought Guo Jing was ecstatic that he turned silly. Immediately Genghis Khan prepared a dowry for Guo Jing: one thousand maidservants, one hundred catties of gold, five hundred cows, two thousand sheep, plus he was told to prepare his own wedding and take anything he needed from Khan’s treasury.

Huazheng was Genghis Khan’s only daughter from his first wife; she was her father’s beloved since she was very little. By that time Genghis Khan’s power had already spread throughout the Mongolian desert, he had subdued many other Khans; who, upon hearing their Great Khan was going to give his daughter’s hand in marriage, immediately sent precious gifts in abundance. Not too long afterwards, more than a dozen big tents were needed to store all the gifts.

Princess Huazheng was so happy that she could not erase the smile from her face; Guo Jing, on the other hand, looked so haggard, his mind was filled with anxiety. He was often caught looking blankly to a far away place with a dejected look on his face.

Li Ping noticed her son’s countenance was unusual, one evening she asked Guo Jing point blankly inside their tent. Guo Jing recounted everything about Huang Rong, from the day they met until they parted a few months ago. Li Ping listened attentively; she was silent for half a day.

“Ma [Mother],” Guo Jing asked, “Your son is in a difficult situation, I don’t know how to manage this.”

“Great Khan has shown profound kindness to us, how can we forget it?” Li Ping answered, “But that Rong’er, that Rong’er, ay! Even though I have never met her, I believe she is an adorable girl.”

“Ma,” Guo Jing suddenly said, “If Father were in this situation, how would he act?”

This question was unexpected to Li Ping; she was silent for half a day; remembering her late husband’s personality; and then with conviction in her voice said, “Your father would rather suffer a hardship than offending other people.”

Guo Jing stood up, with a quivering voice he said, “Even though this son of yours has never seen his father, I should follow my father’s footsteps. If Rong’er is safe, your son will honor my promise to marry Princess Huazheng; but if Rong’er faced calamity, your son will not marry for as long as I live.”

Li Ping thought, “That is a proper thing to do, but how can I let you be the last descendant of the Guo family? Nevertheless, this child is the same as his father, both were stubborn. Once they made a decision what other people say would be useless.” Thereupon she asked, “How are you going to report to the Great Khan?”

“I will tell the Great Khan the truth,” Guo Jing answered.

Li Ping was willing to support her son’s intention. “Good,” she said, “We can’t put this off much longer. Go ahead and say thank you to the Great Khan, we, mother and son, will leave for the south even today.” Guo Jing nodded his approval.

That very same evening mother and son prepared their bags. Other than a few changes of clothes and some silvers, they left the Great Khan’s gifts in the tent.

As soon as they were finished Guo Jing said, “I am going to take my leave from the Princess.”

Li Ping hesitated, “How can you tell her? We’d better leave quietly, spare her the heartache,” she said. “No,” Guo Jing said, “I will personally tell her.” Leaving his tent, he walked towards Huazheng’s tent.

Huazheng and her mother lived in a big tent; they were busy discussing the wedding preparation. Suddenly Huazheng heard Guo Jing’s voice calling her from outside the tent. She was blushing, “Ma!” she said. Her mother smiled, “You are going to get married in a few days, yet you cannot bear not to see each other for just a day. All right, you may go.”

Huazheng smiled and walked out the tent. “Guo Jing Gege [big brother],” she called.

“Meizi [younger sister], I have something I need to tell you,” Guo Jing said. He led her walking to the west. Two people walked several li’s into the prairie, far from the big camp, and sat side by side on the grass.

Huazheng leaned against Guo Jing’s body. Lowering her head she said, “Jing Gege, I also have something I want to tell you.”

Guo Jing was slightly startled, “Ah! So you know already?” he said. He thought it would be better for her to find out, since he did not know where to start.

“Know what?” Huazheng was confused, “I wanted to tell you that I am not the Great Khan’s daughter.” “What?” Guo Jing was surprised.

Huazheng lifted up her eyes toward the crescent moon on the horizon, she slowly said, “After I am married to you, I will forget that I am the Great Khan’s daughter, I am only Guo Jing’s wife. If you want to beat me or scold me, go ahead and do it. Don’t think that because my father is the Great Khan you have to submit to me.”

Guo Jing felt a mixture of bitter-sweet and warm and fuzzy feeling in his heart, he said, “Meizi, you treated me very well. It’s a pity I don’t deserve to have you.”

“What do you mean you don’t deserve me?” Huazheng countered, “You are the kindest man in the world, except for my father, nobody is better than you. Even my four elder brothers don’t hold a candle compared to you.”

Guo Jing was silent for a long time; he was going to leave Mongolia for the south early in the morning the next day, yet he did not know how to tell her.

Huazheng continued, “These past several days I have been so happy. I remember that time when I heard you had died I was going to die with you. Lucky for me Brother Tuolei snatched the dagger from my hand; otherwise how can I marry you now? Guo Jing Gege, I’d rather die than not being your wife.”

Guo Jing silently thought, “Rong’er won’t talk to me like this; but both of them are very kind to me.” Thinking about Huang Rong he could not help letting out a long sigh.

“Uh, why did you sigh?” Huazheng wondered. “It was nothing,” Guo Jing reluctantly said.

Huazheng said, “Hmm, my first brother and second brother didn’t like you, but my third brother and fourth brother are very fond of you. I have told my father frankly that the first brother and second brother are not good, third brother and fourth brother are good, so you don’t have to worry.”

“Why would I worry?” Guo Jing wondered.

Huazheng was very proud of herself, “I heard mother said that since Father is getting older, he wants to appoint the Khan’s Crown Prince. Can you guess who will be chosen?”

“Naturally your first brother, Jochi. Not only he is the oldest, but has rendered most service as well,” Guo Jing said. Huazheng shook her head, “My guess is not the first brother, most likely the third brother, or even the fourth brother.”

Guo Jing knew Genghis Khan’s eldest son Jochi was smart and very competent; the second son, Chagatai was brave and a good strategist. These two men did not bow to each other, their competition was most ardent. The third son Ogedei loved to drink and to hunt; generosity was one of his traits. He realized that after his father passed away, the successor would be either his first or second brother. But among the four princes of the Khan, actually Tuolei was his father’s favorite. He realized he had no chance to become the next Khan; therefore, he had never fought over the position of the crown prince. He was in good terms with all of his three brothers.

Guo Jing was not convinced by Huazheng’s explanation, “Would the Great Khan appoint the Khan’s Crown Prince based on what you said?” he asked.

“I am not sure about that either,” Huazheng said, “That was my blind guess. But even if the first brother or the second brother becomes the next Khan, you don’t have to worry either. If they make things difficult for you, I will fight them to the death.” Huazheng was Genghis Khan’s beloved daughter; 30% of the time her four elder brothers yielded to her.

Guo Jing knew she would do what she said; he slightly smile and said, “You don’t have to do that.” “Why not?” Huazheng said, “If my brothers don’t treat us nicely, we can go together to the south.” “That’s what I was going to say,” Guo Jing blurted, “I must go back to the south.” Huazheng was silent for a moment, “I am afraid mother and father won’t let me go,” she said.

“It’s only me …” Guo Jing started to say, but Huazheng cut him off, “Hmm, I will always listen to you. If you say we are going south, I am coming with you. If mother and father won’t give their permission, we’ll elope.”

Guo Jing could not hold himself much longer, he jumped and stood up, “It’s only two people, me and my mother who are going back south,” he said. Having said this, one was standing up, the other was sitting down, four eyes looked at each other, both stayed still like a pair or statues.

Huazheng’s face showed confusion and despair, she did not understand what he was saying. “Meizi,” Guo Jing broke the silence, “Please forgive me! I can’t marry you.”

“Why? What did I do wrong? You are blaming me for not killing myself, are you not?” Huazheng was confused.

Guo Jing almost shouted, “NO! No! It’s not your fault. I don’t know whose fault it is; I have thought back and forth, and if I should blame anybody, it should be me.”

Henceforth he started telling Huazheng everything about Huang Rong. When he got to the part on how Huang Rong was currently held captive by Ouyang Feng, and that he had searched high and low for half a year without finding any trace of her; Huazheng could feel the excitement in his voice, she was unable to hold her tears from falling down.

Finally Guo Jing said, “Meizi, please just forget me, I must go and look for her.” “After you found her, would you come back here looking for me?” Huazheng asked.

“If she is safe and well, I will certainly go back north,” Guo Jing promised, “At that time, if you did not shut me off and still want me, I will marry you. I definitely won’t regret it.”

Huazheng slowly said, “You don’t have to say that. You know I will always want you to marry me. Go and find her, whether it will be ten years, twenty years, as long as I am still alive, I am going to wait for you in this grassland.”

Guo Jing was excited, “Yes,” he exclaimed, “Ten years, twenty years, I am going to look for her. Ten years, twenty years, I will also remember that you are waiting for me in this grassland.”

Huazheng sprang up and threw herself into his bosom, weeping uncontrollably. Guo Jing embraced her gently, his eyes were turning red. Two people hugged each other without saying anything. Things had come this far, they knew if they say another word they would only grieve the other.

After a long time, they saw four riders from the west came rushing by; they swept pass by Guo Jing and Huazheng’s side, went directly to the Golden Tent. They were still about dozens of ‘zhang’s away from the Golden Tent when suddenly one of the horses fell down and was unable to stand again; it was obvious that this horse was very tired, it dropped dead right then and there. The rider stood up and without casting a single glance toward his dead horse he dashed wildly into the Golden Tent.

A short moment later ten men with horns in their hand rushed out of the Golden Tent; they faced four directions and blow their horns, “Whooo! Whooo! Whooo!”

Guo Jing knew it was Genghis Khan’s most urgent call, whether it was his own son or his beloved general, if anybody did not show up by the time the Great Khan had bent all his ten fingers, he would be beheaded immediately, no question asked.

“The Great Khan summons us!” Guo Jing shouted. Without saying anything to Huazheng he used his lightness kungfu and flew toward the Golden Tent. He heard hoof beats coming urgently from all directions.

When Guo Jing arrived at the tent, Genghis Khan had only bent three fingers; and when he had bent eight fingers all the princes and senior generals were fully assembled. Genghis Khan loudly roared, “Does that dog king Muhammad have quicker princes? Does he have such gallant generals?”

“NO!” the assembly answered in unison.

Genghis Khan beat his chest and shouted, “Look! These are my special envoys to Khoresm; see how did that dog king Muhammad treat my loyal servants?” Every eye followed the Great Khan’s finger. They saw several Mongolians with their faces swollen black and blue; their beards completely burnt. Beards were the Mongolian warriors’ sign of dignity; it was considered a great insult just to bump into it, how much more insulting was it to burn it completely? As soon as the assembly saw this, everyone exploded in angry roars.

Genghis Khan said, “Khoresm is a big country with a strong army, but are we afraid of them? Because we have been concentrating our effort to battle the Jins, we were very lenient to them. Jochi my son, tell everybody how we should deal with that dog king Muhammad.”

Jochi stepped forward and said with a loud voice, “That year Father King sent your son to attack the deserved-to-die Mergid people. Your son returned triumphantly. That dog king Muhammad also sent a big army to attack the Mergids. Two armies met. Your son sent a good-will envoy, saying that Father King sincerely wished to be friend with the Khoresm. That red-bearded dog king actually said, ‘Genghis Khan did not order you to attack me, but Allah had sent me to attack you.’ As a result we were engaged in a fierce battle. We had gained the upper hand, but because the enemy was ten-times our number, we quietly withdrew the troops at midnight.” Boroul suddenly said, “For all that the Great Khan still showed respect towards this dog king. We sent a trade caravan, but the cargo was robbed by that dog king, while our merchants were killed. This time we sent ambassadors of goodwill, that dog king has listened to that Jin dog prince Wanyan Honglie’s instigation; he killed half of the Great Khan’s messengers, while burning the other half’s beards and sent them back home.”

Hearing the name Wanyan Honglie, Guo Jing’s heart turned cold, “Is Wanyan Honglie at the Khoresm?” he asked.

One of the burnt messengers answered, “I recognized him. He sat by that dog king’s side, constantly talking in low voice with that dog king.”

Genghis Khan called out, “The Jin dog has joined forces with Khoresm, they are going to press us from both sides, are we afraid of them?”

The assembly answered with one voice, “Our Great Khan is peerless in the world. You order us to attack the Khoresm, we will crush their cities, burn down their buildings, kill their men off, taking captive of their women and livestock!”

Genghis Khan shouted, “We must capture Muhammad! We must capture Wanyan Honglie!” The assembly answered his cry with a cheering so loud that the candle lights inside the tent swayed. Genghis Khan took his saber out and swung it in front of him. He rushed outside the tent, leaped onto his horseback. The assembly followed him out of the tent and mounted their horses.

Genghis Khan rode his horse several ‘li’s into the prairie until he arrived at a small hill. The assembly knew he wanted to be left alone to think, so they did not go up the hill, but formed a ring surrounding the small hill. Genghis Khan saw Guo Jing was standing not too far from him, he called, “Son, come here.” Guo Jing galloped his horse uphill.

Genghis Khan swept his gaze on the prairie, where the light from his army camp flickered like stars scattered throughout the vast grassland. He raised his whip and said, “Son, that day we were surrounded by Sangum and Jamukha on the mountain, I had said something to you. Do you remember what I said?”

“I remember,” Guo Jing answered, “The Great Khan said that we the Mongolians have many valiant men. As long as we do not fight our own people and join our forces, we will be able to call the world our grazing land.”

‘Crack!’ Genghis Khan twirled his horse whip into the air, he called out, “That’s right! Now the Mongolians have joined forces, let us go and capture that Wanyan Honglie.”

Guo Jing had decided to go back south with his mother the next day, suddenly this matter arose, how could he forget to avenge his father’s death? Moreover, his mother and he have received Khan’s generosity. The opportunity had presented itself for him to repay this debt of gratitude; so he called out, “This time we will surely capture that scoundrel Wanyan Honglie.”

“Rumor has it that the Khoresm army is one million men strong, but I estimate their number to be close to six, seven hundred thousands,” Genghis Khan said, “We only have two-hundred thousand men, but we have to spare several thousands men to fight the Jin dogs. A hundred and fifty thousands against seven hundreds, what would you say? Will we win?”

Guo Jing was completely oblivious of battle strategy, but he was not a coward. Hearing the Great Khan so inquired, he boldly said, “We will win!”

“Of course we will win,” Genghis Khan said, “That day I said I will treat you as my own son. Once Temujin says something, he won’t forget it. You come with me on this expedition to the west; once we have captured Muhammad and Wanyan Honglie, we will go back home and consummate your marriage with my daughter.” This was precisely what he was hoping for, so Guo Jing agreed immediately.

Genghis Khan rode his horse descending that hill, “Summon the soldiers!” he gave his command. Immediately his personal guard sounded the bugle while Genghis Khan speedily went back to his camp.

Along the way men were seen moving around like shadows and horses were galloping back and forth but not a single voice was heard; a sign of a highly disciplined army. Before the Khan even arrived at the Golden Tent, his thirty thousand soldiers had already neatly arranged on the prairie. The bright moonlight shone on row upon row of spears and blade, making the prairie glittered with silvery gleams.

Genghis Khan entered the Golden Tent and called his secretary, assigning him to write a war declaration. The secretary immediately composed a lengthy letter on a sheet or parchment; then he knelt down in front of the Great Khan to read his letter: “The Heaven has appointed me as the Great Khan over many nations, enlarged my territory by tens of thousands ‘li’s, helped me to crush countless countries. From the ancient of days there is no one who can be called my equal. Once my thunder strikes, how can you resist? Your country’s existence until today depends on three things: unless you send a tribute, the great Mongolian army will …”

The more Genghis Khan heard, the angrier he became; he kicked that white-bearded secretary upside down and cursed him, “Who are you writing to? Why would Genghis Khan used such flowery words toward a dog king?” Raising his horse whip he struck the secretary’s face several times, and then called out, “Listen to me, what I say, you write down.”

That secretary gingerly crawled back up, he took a fresh parchment and knelt on the floor, looking intently to the Great Khan’s lips.

Genghis Khan walked to the tent entrance and opened up the curtain, looking toward his thirty-thousand strong cavalry. With a low and calm voice he said, “Write it this way, only six characters.” He paused for a moment then shouted, “If you want to fight, then fight!” [ni yao zhan, bian zou zhan – 6 characters]

The secretary was stunned, thinking this kind of official document was so scandalously unusual, but his face was still burning from the whip earlier, how could he dare to object? He wrote those six characters in large letters immediately.

“Put my gold seal on it and send it by the fastest horse,” Genghis Khan commanded. Mukhali put the seal on the letter and dispatch a ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of a 1000 men unit] with his troops to deliver the letter.

The rest of the assembly learned about the Great Khan’s letter, which only had six characters on it, their spirit rose. They heard the hoof beats of the messengers gradually disappear into the prairie, suddenly as if by prior agreement they shouted in one voice, “If you want to fight, then fight!” While outside, the thirty-thousand soldiers cheered, “He hu! He hu! [lit. ‘hey! (or ‘I say!) Shout!’] It was the Mongolian cavalry’s battle cry. As the horses heard their masters shout they neighed loudly while lifting up their front legs. The noise on the prairie that night was deafening, as if they were in an actual battle.

Genghis Khan dismissed his army then he sat alone in his Golden Tent, deep in thought. The chair he was sitting on was taken from the Jins; a dragon snatching a giant pearl was carved on its back, while a pair of ferocious tiger heads was carved on its two armrests. It was the throne that belonged to the Jin emperor.

Genghis Khan reminisced his own youth, which was full of sufferings and difficult times; he recalled his own mother, his wife, his four sons and a beloved daughter; he also remembered his beautiful concubines, his ever-victorious army, his vast and boundless empire; at last he thought about the upcoming war against a powerful enemy.

Although he was getting old his hearing was as keen as when he was young; he heard a distant mournful cry of a warhorse, then the cry stopped abruptly. He understood it was an old horse with an incurable disease; its master could not bear to see it suffer, so he must have killed the horse. Suddenly he remembered, “I am also getting old, this time I am going to war, will I go back home alive? If I lose my life in the battlefield, my four sons will fight over the Great Khan position; it definitely will be a devastating fight. Ay, I wish I can live forever and not see death.”

Even if one was an invincible, fearless warrior; once one’s strength gradually faded, one’s mind would involuntarily think about ‘death’. He could not help but feeling trepidation; his heart trembled with fear.

“I heard in the south there exists a class of people called ‘Taoist Priests’ who can teach people how to become deity who will never grow old and never see death. I wonder if it is true?” he mused. Clapping his hands twice he called a guard to summon Guo Jing into the tent.

As soon as Guo Jing arrived Genghis Khan asked him about this matter. “I don’t know about becoming immortal deity, but there indeed some people who can teach you how to meditate, to do breathing exercise, circulating your energy; in the end, it will prolong your life,” Guo Jing answered.

Genghis Khan was delighted, “Do you know such person? Quickly go and find one to see me,” he said. “This kind of people won’t come with any casual invitation,” Guo Jing replied.

“Correct,” Genghis Khan said, “I am going to send a high official to invite him to the north. Tell me, whom should I invite?”

Guo Jing thought, “Among the Taoist orthodox sects, the Quanzhen is the best. Among the Quanzhen Six Masters, Qiu Daozhang’s [Taoist Priest] martial art is the highest, he is also the most amiable, perhaps he would be willing to come.” Therefore, he mentioned the name of Changchun Zi [Eternal Spring] Qiu Chuji.

Genghis Khan was ecstatic; he summoned his secretary immediately, told him his intention and ordered him to write an imperial letter.

The secretary had a bitter experience earlier that day, he thought for a long time, then finally wrote the imperial letter, “I have something to talk, please come immediately [zhen you shi, bian ji lai].” He followed the Great Khan’s literary style, also only used six characters. He thought this time surely the Great Khan would be pleased with his work. Who would have thought that as soon as Genghis Khan heard the letter, he was angry, and once again his whip hit the secretary’s face.

“I said that way to a dog king, but how can I treat an honorable Taoist Priest the same way?” Genghis Khan scolded, “You must write a long letter, a modest and respectful one.”

The secretary knelt down on the ground and started to compose this imperial letter:

‘The Heaven despises the arrogant in the Central Plains, I rule in the northern desert yet I also share the sentiment. I wish for a simple and pure character, shun the extravagance and embrace frugality. Each clothes each meal, along with the livestock in the corral enjoying the Heaven providence. Regarding the people like newborn babies, raising warriors like brothers, seeking harmony with the earth’s element and the living beings.

Training tens of thousands soldiers, dispatching hundreds of military expeditions with me leading in the front; within seven years I have completed great undertakings, uniting six elements into harmony. Not by my own virtue, but because of the Jin’s government’s lack of patience and the Heaven bestowed its blessing and gave honor to me.

To the south I made an alliance with the Zhao family’s Song Dynasty, to the north annexed the Hui Ge, to the east Xia and to the west Yi [name of countries, not sure the exact location]; all acknowledging Genghis Khan’s sovereignty, unparalleled since the founding of my Great Mongolia for thousands of years and hundreds of generations. However, my responsibilities are heavy; there is something I lack to maintain peace.

Just like marking the side of the boat where the sword fell into the lake, thinking that the water did not flow [meaning: vanity, something stupid]. I need worthy men to assist me in achieving peace under the sky. I assumed the throne with diligent mind to build a better nation; but three out of nine positions is not filled properly.

I seek Master Teacher Qiu to give guidance, governing nature, nourishing an exhausted mind; applying the strong Taoist virtue, cherishing the respected manners of honorable people of old; embracing the sage’s elegant deeds, living above the cliffs and valleys leading an invisible life. Enlightened forefathers have left behind a message: to devote one’s life in the way of the warrior.

An ancient saying shows the paths to immortality, every single one worthy of praise. Even after taking up arms, I am aware that the Master still possesses secret ancient way which I look up to cherish as my own.’

The secretary wrote to this point, he raised his head and asked, “Is it long enough?”

Genghis Khan smiled and said, “Such a nice letter. Enough. Write that I am dispatching a Han high ranking officer, Liu Zhonglu with my greetings to invite him over.”

The secretary continued,

‘If not for the battle how can one realize he needs the assistance of a secluded expert, that he visited the thatched hut three times? [Background info: Liu Bei visited Zhuge Liang three times before the latter agreed to help the former] The mountains and rivers are vast, yet missed to give a revered welcome.

It is time for me to leave my position. I fast and clean up my body, and I send my officer Liu Zhonglu, riding a plain carriage, enduring a thousand ‘li’s travel, to respectfully invite the Master to spare a moment from your journey treading immortal path, to brave the desolate desert in distant land, to tend to the affair of common people; and perhaps to give relief to the weary.

I long to go to the immortal place and wish not the immortal Master to spit on my desire. I will be happy to hear just one word of encouragement clearly; sincerely hope the Master would be willing to take the higher road to befriend me and not disappoint the hope of all living beings. Herewith the imperial letter ends; to be read by the appropriate addressee.’

Genghis Khan said, “Good, let it be like that.” He rewarded that secretary five ‘liang’s of gold; he also asked Guo Jing to write a personal letter of invitation to earnestly ask Qiu Chuji to come over. That very same day he sent Liu Zhonglu with the imperial letter to the south.

[Author’s note: Genghis Khan’s invitation to Qiu Chuji was based on the original text according to historical documents]

The next day Genghis Khan held a general assembly of all his high-ranking officials discussing the expedition to the west; conferring Guo Jing the title of ‘Noyon’, placing him in command of a ten-thousand men unit. ‘Noyon’ was the Mongolian highest official title, normally given only to the Great Khan’s close relative or a very senior general. By this time Guo Jing’s martial art had advanced immensely, but his military strategy knowledge was next to zero. He had no alternative but went to Jebeh, Subotai and other senior generals, asking for some advice. But he was slow and military tactics had an almost infinite variation; how could he learn it all in just a short period of time?

He saw the other generals were busy preparing their soldiers, gathering provisions and choosing their horses and weaponry; everybody was very busy. One hundred and fifty thousands cavalry went on an expedition to the west, going through bitter cold and barren desert lands, the preparation was certainly not a small matter. He had no clue on what to do, hence he simply assigned ten ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of a 1000 men unit] under his command to separately handle the preparations and Jebeh and Tuolei oftentimes giving their advice to help him out.

A month or so later he still felt his preparation to be inadequate. He realized it was beyond him to command his troops. To attack a strong army of a million using the ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ or even the Nine Yin Manual would not be possible. If he issued a wrong order even for only one time, he would be defeated by the enemy. Not only Genghis Khan’s reputation would be marred, but the lives of ten thousand men would be jeopardized as well.

That day he was seriously contemplating to see the Great Khan and resign from his position; he was willing to be a low ranking soldier under somebody else’s command, fighting the enemy as an individual, when suddenly his second-in-command came to report that more than a thousand Han people were waiting outside, they were seeking an audience with him.

Guo Jing was delighted, he thought, “Qiu Daozhang has arrived this soon?” Hastily he went out his tent to welcome the visitor. To his surprised however, he saw on the prairie stood a group of people dressed as beggars. Three men rushed forward and bowed to greet him; turned out they were the Beggar Clan’s Lu Youjiao, along with Jian and Liang Zhanglao [Elders].

“Have you heard anything about Miss Huang Rong?” Guo Jing anxiously asked.

“Xiao Ren [lit. little/lowly person] had anxiously waited for any news, but the Bangzhu’s whereabouts is still unknown. We heard Sir [‘guan ren’, lit. government officer] is commanding a troop on the expedition to the west. We come to offer our assistance,” Lu Youjiao answered. Guo Jing was greatly surprised, “How did you know?”

“The Great Khan sent a messenger inviting Qiu Chuji, Priest Qiu; we heard it from the Quanzhen people,” Lu Youjiao replied.

Guo Jing was silent for half a day, staring blankly toward the clouds on the southern horizon, he thought, “The Beggar Clan has eyes and ears all over the world, yet they don’t know Rong’er’s whereabouts. I am afraid her being in danger is more likely than not.” Thinking about Huang Rong his eyes turned red involuntarily. He assigned his second-in-command to help the newcomers settled down while he himself went to inform the Great Khan.

“Good,” Genghis Khan said, “Place them under your command.”

When Guo Jing conveyed his intention to resign, Genghis Khan was angry, “Who can fight a battle as soon as they are born? Nobody can. After fighting several battles you will pick up. You grew up with me, what are you afraid of? How could Genghis Khan’s son-in- law not go to war?”

Guo Jing did not dare to say another word. He returned to his tent with an anxious face. Lu Youjiao asked him what the matter was, and then tried to console him. When evening came Lu Youjiao came to his tent and said, “If I knew it would be this way, Xiao Ren would have brought ‘Sun Tzu’s Art of War’, or ‘Tai Gong’s Summary of Military Strategy’ from the south; then everything will be all right.”

It suddenly dawned on Guo Jing that he had the ‘Wumu’s Legacy’ by his side. It was a military manual; how could he forget about it? Right away he took the book out from his clothes pouch, and then read it by the lantern light all night long through the next day, stopping only because he felt tired.

This book contained all kinds of military strategy; from reconnaissance, planning an attack, defense strategy, to military training, officer management, troop disposition, field operation, as well as safety and danger situation overview and escape strategy, all were discussed in details.

That day Guo Jing had browsed through it on the boat at Yuanjiang, he did not pay too much attention. But this time he needed military guidance, so he read until he had a good grasp of what was written. When he did not understand any part of the book, he would invite Lu Youjiao to ask his advice. Lu Youjiao would answer, “Right now Xiao Ren does not understand, but let me think about it.” He would leave Guo Jing’s tent only for a moment then came back with a very detailed explanation. Guo Jing was delighted and would ask him more questions. Strangely, Lu Youjiao would always not able to answer immediately; he always asked for some time to think, but then afterwards would always come up with answers no matter how difficult the problem was. At first Guo Jing did not notice, but after several days this answer-finding-process repeated, he could not help but feeling suspicious.

One evening Guo Jing picked a character from the book and asked him what it meant. Lu Youjiao said he wasn’t clear about that, so he needed sometime to think about it, then he went out the tent. Guo Jing thought, “The book is difficult, it’s all right if you need some time to ponder its meaning; but it is only a character, how could you not know its meaning?”

Although holding a position of general, Guo Jing was still very young and he still had a childish character. As soon as Lu Youjiao exited his tent he followed immediately. He stealthily hid among the tall grass wanting to know Lu Youjiao’s secret. He saw Lu Youjiao entered a tiny tent, and in just a short while he went out the tent again. Guo Jing hastily went back to his own tent. Lu Youjiao went in and said, “Xiao Ren has thought about it.” Then he proceeded by explaining the character’s correct pronunciation and its meaning.

Guo Jing smiled, “Lu Zhanglao, you have an expert master; why don’t you invite your master to see me?” Lu Youjiao was startled, “I don’t,” he said.

Guo Jing grabbed his hand and smiled, “We will go out and see.” He pulled his hand and went out the tent, walked toward that tiny tent he saw earlier.

Outside that tiny tent two Beggar Clan members were standing on guard duty. As soon as they saw Guo Jing they coughed lightly. Guo Jing noticed their coughs he let Lu Youjiao’s hand go and darted toward the tent. As soon as he lifted the tent’s entrance he saw the rear part of the tent fluttered a little bit. Definitely someone has just gone out the tent. Guo Jing rushed forward and lifted up the tent, but he only saw tall grass, not a single human’s shadow was to be seen. He was perplexed, was silent for a while.

Guo Jing turned around and asked Lu Youjiao, but Lu Youjiao said the tent was his, nobody else lived there.

Guo Jing did not give up, he kept asking Lu Youjiao difficult questions from the ‘Wumu’s Legacy’, but from now on Lu Youjiao would wait for the next day before he could answer his questions.

Guo Jing knew the person in that tent did not have any ill intention, only did not want to see him. Guo Jing decided that person must be an expert from the Jianghu, and it would be difficult to deal with people like that, so he put this matter aside temporarily.

He studied the book in the evening then trained his soldiers during the day according to method he learned from the book. The Mongolian cavalry was used to fight an open battle, now they had to train battle formations; they were having a very difficult time. But an order is an order, they did not dare to disobey, so they had no choice and trained hard.

Another month had passed; Genghis Khan’s army and its logistic were ready. Guo Jing managed to train his ten thousand soldiers in all eight battle formations: ‘tian fu’ [high as the sky], ‘di zai’ [strong as the earth], ‘feng yang’ [scattered like a wind], ‘yun chui’ [dangling like a cloud] , ‘long fei’ [flying dragon], ‘hu yi’ [winged tiger], ‘niao xiang’ [soaring bird], and ‘she pan’ [coiling snake]; which they have mastered skillfully.

These eight formations were originally created by Zhuge Liang based on ancient methods; when they got to Yue Fei’s hand, he added many changes and variations. When Yue Fei was young, he went to war under Zong Ze who said, “Your bravery, wisdom and skill have exceeded those of the ancient times; however, in a real battle we can’t predict everything.” He was referring to the troop disposition method. Yue Fei answered, “In a real battle, the art of war does not change. Whoever manages to utilize its wonder will save their own hearts and minds.” Zong Ze could not help but agree to what he said. Later on Yue Fei led many other troop movements. He was aware that he could not always follow certain method, yet he still trained his officers and soldiers according to these methods. Only when it came to the real battle he executed his plan dynamically, thus had defeated countless enemies. This process was also recorded in the ‘Wumu’s Legacy’ book.

One particular day the weather was clear and the air was fresh, the sky stretched out for tens of thousands miles, blue like it was fresh from the laundry. The one hundred and fifty thousand Mongolian cavalry were arranged in row after row on the prairie. Genghis Khan offered a sacrifice to the heaven and earth, making a vow before going into battle. Toward all his generals he said, “Stone has no skin, but there is a limit to human’s life. My hair and beard have all turned white. This time I go to war, don’t know if I am going back home alive. My concubine has reminded me last night, and I think she was right. I have to assign one of my sons today to lift high my banner after I am gone.”

The generals had fought hundreds of battle, following Genghis Khan’s attacks to the east and expeditions to the west. His white hair had been gray. Suddenly hearing the Great Khan was going to appoint his successor, they were all surprised and delighted at the same time. All eyes gazed toward his face, waiting for him to say his successor’s name.

Genghis Khan said, “Jochi, you are my eldest son, tell me, whom should I appoint?” Jochi’s heart skipped a beat. He was very capable, had rendered the most service, besides, he was the eldest son. He had always thought that when his father king died, naturally the position would fall into his lap. Now that the Great Khan suddenly asked, he did not know how to reply.

Genghis Khan’s second son, Chagatai, was like a raging fire. He did not live harmoniously with his eldest brother. Hearing his father king asking his brother, he opened his mouth, “He wants Jochi to speak, what order will he receive? How can we let this Mergid bastard rule over us?”

Actually when Genghis Khan was young, his army was weak; as a result his wife was captured by their enemy, the Mergids. After several years in captivity, his wife was taken back, but by that time she had already given birth to Jochi. Genghis Khan accepted this fact with an open mind; he regarded Jochi as his own son.

Listening to his own brother’s insult Jochi could not hold his patience any longer, he charged forward, grabbing Chagatai’s chest, shouted, “Father King had never regarded me as an outsider, how dare you insulted me? What skill do you have that I don’t? You are nothing more than an irritable hot-tempered arrogant man. Let’s go out and have a duel; if I lost to you in archery, I will rip my own thumb. If I lost to you in martial arts, I will throw myself on the ground and never get up!” Turning his head toward Genghis Khan he said, “Father King, please give your order.” Two brothers grabbed each other’s chest, ready to have a duel right then and there.

The rest of the generals stepped forward to separate them; Bourchu pulled Jochi’s hand, while Mukhali held Chagatai’s hand.

Genghis Khan was silent; he remembered his own disgrace in his youth that he was not even able to defend his wife’s honor, which had caused today’s dispute. The generals all blamed Chagatai for bringing up past events and hurt their parents’ hearts.

“Both of you, drop it!” finally Genghis Khan said, “Jochi is my eldest son; I will always love him no matter what. I forbid anyone to speak bad about him.”

Chagatai let Jochi go, he said, “Jochi is very capable, everybody knows that. But in term of generosity and benevolence, he is inferior to the third brother, Ogedei. I vote for Ogedei.”

“Jochi, what do you say?” Genghis Khan asked.

Jochi could see the unfavorable situation; he knew his hope to be the Great Khan was shattered. He had always had good relationship with his third brother; he knew the third brother was kindhearted, certainly would not do him any harm in the future, therefore, he said, “Very well, I also support Ogedei.”

The fourth prince Tuolei did not challenge that nomination, Ogedei was about to decline; but Genghis Khan said, “You don’t need to decline. Your battle skill is inferior to your two elder brothers, but you treat people kindly. When you become the Great Khan in the future, all princes and generals won’t fight each other. We the Mongolian people will have no enemy as long as we don’t fight each other. What are we anxious about then?”

That day Genghis Khan threw a big feast in celebration of the newly appointed crown prince. All the troops, from the generals to the soldiers drank until very late that night. Guo Jing went back to his tent a little tipsy. He was just about to take out his clothes to sleep when suddenly one of his officers came rushing in, gave him this report, “’Fu Ma Ye’ [Master Consort], it’s not good; the First Prince and the Second Prince were drunk. Each took his troops to kill each other.”

Guo Jing was stunned, quickly said, “Inform the Great Khan!”

“The Great Khan is also drunk, we couldn’t wake him up,” the officer replied. Guo Jing knew both Jochi and Chagatai had loyal followers, the troops under their flags were ferocious; if they killed each other the Mongolian army’s strength would be hurt considerably. They were having a brawl in the Great Khan’s presence earlier, but this time both were drunk; he had the urge to help, but how could he separate them? He was lost at what to do, pacing back and forth inside his tent while tapping his own forehead, musing, “If only Rong’er is here, she would know what to do.” He heard a distant battle cry, looked like both troops were about to kill each other.

Guo Jing was getting more anxious than ever; but suddenly Lu Youjiao rushed in and handed him a piece of paper with this message, “Use ‘coiled snake’ to cut off two armies, then use ‘winged tiger’ to capture those who refuse to surrender.” By that time Guo Jing had mastered the ‘Wumu’s Legacy’ from top to bottom. As soon as he saw these two lines of characters his mind was enlightened. He shouted, “How could I be so stupid? What’s the use of reading the military strategy book?” Immediately he gave orders for his own troops to move.

The discipline among the Mongolian army was very strict; even though all the officers and soldiers were drunk once the order was given, they armed themselves and mounted their horse; in a very short time had formed a neat battle formation.

The drums were sounded three times, the bugle was blown, the troops under Guo Jing’s command started to move toward the northeast. Several li’s later his scout came back reporting that the First and the Second Princes’ troops had started to battle each other; their ‘He hu! He hu!” shouts were heard from afar.

Guo Jing was anxious, “I am afraid I come one step too late and not able to prevent this big calamity.” Hastily he waved his hand to give orders; his ten thousand men divided itself, the right-hand ‘hou tian’ [rear sky]’s three axes moved forward, the right-hand ‘hou di’ [rear earth]’s three axes moved toward the tail; the right ‘hou tian’ charged, the right ‘hou di’ charged, moved toward northwest and northeast they occupied the right-hand position. Their corresponding left-hand teams did the same and occupied the left-hand position; while Guo Jing’s big banner moved in the center, followed by a ‘coiled snake’ formation fiercely broke through the front.

Jochi and Chagatai had each brought their twenty-thousand men, fighting with long saber in their hands. Guo Jing’s ‘coiled snake’ suddenly charged in between still maintaining their neat formation. The battling troops were startled, they scattered slightly disorderly.

Chagatai’s loud voice was heard, “Who’s there? Who’s there? Are you coming to help me or to help this bastard Jochi?”

Guo Jing paid no attention, his command flag waved, his teams moved around, the ‘coiled snake’ changed into ‘winged tiger’ immediately, the four smaller groups left-hand and right-hand ‘qian tian’ [front sky] occupied the front position, the rest of the groups enveloped Chagatai’s troops from both sides, their corresponding left groups outflanked Jochi’s troops on the other side.

By this time Chagatai could see Guo Jing’s banner clearly; angrily he swore, “I knew from the start the southern barbarian is not a good person.” He gave an order to his troops to kill Guo Jing’s. But those tiger’s wings contained subtle variations; each was very powerful; it was the formation Han Xin used to crush Xiang Yu at Gai Xia. It was called, “Ten principles to surround the enemy” in the military strategy books. It was said to have a power of surrounding the enemy ten times stronger, the principle of small number surrounding many using ever changing movements.

Chagatai’s troops saw Guo Jing’s small groups came and went continually, they did not know the exact number of the enemy and their hearts trembled with fear. In a short moment Chagatai’s twenty-thousand troops had been cut off, each group could not help the other.

The fight against Jochi’s troops took a different turn since their fighting spirit was already weakened. First, it was their fellow countrymen, more than half of them were good friends to each other. Second, they were afraid of the Great Khan’s wrath. As soon as Guo Jing small groups surrounded them in confusing movements, they lost their will to fight.

Among the troop movement Guo Jing’s loud voice could be heard, “We are all Mongolian brothers, no need to kill each other. Quickly put down your sabers, spears, bows and arrows to avoid the Great Khan’s beheadings.” Almost all officers and soldiers listened to his plea; immediately they dismounted their horses and threw their weapons to the ground.

Chagatai and about a thousand of his loyal followers charged ferociously toward Guo Jing’s troops, but three drumbeats were heard, eight groups of riders came surrounding them from all directions; they carried horse-tripping ropes. One by one the thousand troops fell down their horsebacks. From those eight groups, four or five soldiers surrounded one of Chagatai’s loyal followers. They were forced to sit on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs.

Jochi saw how Guo Jing’s troops routed Chagatai, he could not help but feeling scared but happy. He was about to move forward to talk to Guo Jing when suddenly the horn sounded again, Guo Jing’s front teams moved backward and the rear teams moved forward, very soon Jochi was surrounded on all directions.

Jochi had an extensive battle experience, but he had never seen anything like this. Hastily ordered his men to attack, but Guo Jing’s ten thousand men split into twelve smaller groups, did not charge forward, but moved backward instead. Jochi was marveled; he did not know that these twelve groups were:

‘da hei zi’ [black darkness, 11pm – 1am, the first hour], ‘po di chou’ [worn out enemy, 1 – 3am, the second hour], ‘zuo tu yin’ [dashing to the left, 3 – 5am, the third hour], ‘qing she mao’ [green snake, 5 – 7am, the fourth hour],

‘cui xiong chen’ [terrible devastation, 7 – 9am, the fifth hour], ‘qian chong si’ [charge forward, 9 – 11am, the sixth hour], ‘da chi wu’ [great scarlet, 11am – 1pm, the seventh hour], ‘xian feng wei’ [first tip (of the tool/weapon), 1 – 3pm, the eight hour], ‘you ji shen’ [right-hand strike, 3 – 5pm, the ninth hour],

‘bai yun you’ [white cloud, 5 – 7pm, the tenth hour], ‘jue sheng xu’ [sure victory, 7 – 9pm, the eleventh hour],

and ‘hou wei hai’ [rear guard, 9 – 11pm, the twelfth hour ], according to the twelve two-hour periods of the day; with strange variations, swiftly moved back and forth.

These twelve groups moved around, the right-hand groups charged to the left, the left-hand groups strike to the right; Jochi’s troops were confused. Less than the time to eat a bowl of rice later Jochi and his men were also surrounded and captured.

Jochi remembered when all of them were kids he had whipped Guo Jing half-dead. Chagatai also remembered he let his dogs loose and bite Guo Jing really bad. Both were afraid that Guo Jing would seek revenge; they sobered up immediately. They were also really scared that their father king would punish them severely.

After capturing these two people Guo Jing thought that as an outsider he had interfered in this sibling rivalry; he was not sure if his action might result in disaster or good luck. He was thinking of discussing this matter over with Ogedei and Tuolei when suddenly he heard loud horn sound; amidst the flickering torches the Great Khan’s nine big banners came galloping fast.

Genghis Khan had sobered up from wine, he received the report that his two sons were about to kill each other. He was startled and angrily jumped out of his bed. Without wearing clothes or armor, with his hair unkempt he jumped on his horse and sped to the prairie.

When he came near, he saw his sons’ troops sat on the ground, with Guo Jing’s troops standing around, guarding them. His two sons, although they were still sitting on the horsebacks, but each were surrounded by eight of Guo Jing’s men wielding unsheathed blades in their hands. He was very surprised.

Guo Jing stepped forward and knelt down on the ground, reporting everything. Realizing that a major disaster had been unexpectedly thwarted, Genghis Khan’s delight was unspeakable. He came rushing in thinking that two Mongolian armies had fought each other, the casualty must be serious; his two sons might be dead already. Who would have thought that his two sons were alive and well, three armies were intact. Of course he was delighted.

Immediately he called a general assembly of all the princes and generals. He scolded Jochi and Chagatai, and heavily rewarded Guo Jing and his men. He said to Guo Jing, “Do you still say that you cannot lead troops to war? Your merit in this matter alone can easily dwarf the war against the Jin country. If we cannot destroy the enemy’s city wall today, we can always come back tomorrow and try again. But if my sons were dead, how can we make them alive again?”

Guo Jing took the rewards, but divided the gold, silver and livestock to his troops. There was a thunderous cheering and applause among his troops that day. All generals came to congratulate him on this great merit.

After sending off the guests, Guo Jing took out the note given to him by Lu Youjiao. He examined it carefully, the handwriting was shoddy, most likely it was Lu Youjiao’s handwriting, but he was suspicious, “Although I have trained my troops in ‘coiled snake’ and ‘winged tiger’ formations, but I have never mentioned these names to Lu Zhanglao. The difficult parts of the book that I asked him for advice also do not have anything to do with this battle formations. How did he know? Did he read my military strategy book without my knowledge?”

Right away he invited Lu Youjiao into his tent. “Lu Zhanglao, if you like to read this military strategy book, I will gladly lend it to you.”

Lu Youjiao smiled, “A poor beggar like me will not become a general in my lifetime; leading a whole bunch of little beggars also did not need to use the art of war. What use will the military strategy book for me?”

Guo Jing pointed his finger to the note, “Then how did you know about the ‘coiled snake’ and ‘winged tiger’ formations?”

“Sir has mentioned it to Xiao Ren, have you forgotten?” Lu Youjiao said. Guo Jing knew he was not telling the truth. The more he thought about it the more he was perplexed; but he was not sure what did Lu Youjiao hide.

The next day Genghis Khan held another general assembly. The vanguard was under Chagatai and Ogedei’s command. The left flank was under Jochi’s command, while the right was under Guo Jing’s. Each of the vanguard, left and right units were thirty thousand men strong. Genghis Khan and Tuolei commanded over sixty thousand soldiers as the main army. Each soldier rode on one of a pair of horses; they would ride one horse at a time to conserve the horses’ strength. The officers took even more horses. With one hundred and fifty thousand men, they took with them nearly a million horses.

The horns were sounded, the drums were beaten, the noise was deafening. The thirty-thousand strong vanguard cavalry unit started to gallop majestically to the west. The great army moved farther and farther west, entering Khoresm territory with irresistible force. Muhammad’s army was bigger, but they were not the Mongolian’s army match. Guo Jing led his unit destroying cities and killing the enemies, he had rendered not a few merits.

End of Chapter 36. 

Chapter 37 – Descending From the Sky

One day Guo Jing’s troops pitched a camp by a riverbank. In the evening Guo Jing was reading the military strategy book when suddenly there was a commotion outside his tent. The curtain to his tent was opened, and somebody was forcing his way in. The guards outside shouted, trying to stop him, but that person moved his hand and one by one the guards fell to the ground. That man lifted up his head and laughed. Under the bright candlelight Guo Jing could see his face clearly; it was none other than the Western Poison Ouyang Feng, whom Guo Jing had searched high and low for tens of thousands ‘li’s. Unexpectedly he appeared here in a foreign land, Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised. He jumped up from his seat and called out, “Where is Miss Huang?”

“I was just about to ask you,” Ouyang Feng replied, “Where is that little girl? Quickly hand her over to me!”

Hearing this, Guo Jing’s delight was beyond measure, “So Rong’er is still alive; not only that, but she managed to escape from his evil hands too,” he thought.

“Where is that little girl?” Ouyang Feng sternly asked again.

“She went with you in Jiangnan, then what happened? She … is she well? You haven’t killed her, I really should thank you! I … I must thank you,” Guo Jing said. He was sobbing from overwhelming delight.

Ouyang Feng knew Guo Jing was not able to lie, but all signs indicated that Huang Rong was with him; how could he be so oblivious, Ouyang Feng had to re-think his assumptions. He sat cross-legged on the carpet in Guo Jing’s tent.

Guo Jing wiped out his tears, then unsealed his guards’ acupoints and asked them to deliver ‘ru jiu lao cha’ [lit. milk wine cream tea – don’t know exactly what kind of drink it was].

Ouyang Feng drank a bowl of ‘ma ru jiu’ [horse milk wine], he said, “Dumb kid, I might as well speak frankly with you. That little girl was with me since we were at the Temple of the Iron Spear in Jiaxing, unexpectedly several days later she escaped from me.”

Guo Jing cheered ecstatically, he said, “She is so smart, once she decided to escape, she will find a way to escape. How did she do it?” Ouyang Feng full of hatred said, “At the Cloud Manor, by Lake Tai … Bah!” he spat, “Why would I tell you? In short, she ran away.”

Guo Jing knew Ouyang Feng was a conceited man; he did not expect him to personally reveal his own setback, so he stopped asking question. Knowing Huang Rong was alive and well he was elated, he kept shouted, “Wonderful! Just wonderful!”

Ouyang Feng was annoyed, “What do you mean wonderful?” he asked, “After she escaped I was hot on her trail; several times I almost caught her, but every time she managed to get away relying on her craftiness. But I always followed her closely, she could not run away to the Peach Blossom Island. I chased her to the Mongolian border then suddenly her trail disappeared. I thought she must be hiding in your troops; therefore, I am standing on my guard to prevent her from running away again.”

Hearing that Huang Rong was in Mongolia, Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised, “Have you seen her?” he asked.

Ouyang Feng was indignant, “If I saw her, wouldn’t I capture her?” he said, “Day and night I stayed in your troops keeping my eyes open, I did not even see this little girl’s shadow. Dumb kid, what kind of crafty trick are you playing?”

Guo Jing was silent for half a day, he asked, “Day and night you are in my troops? How come I did not recognize you?”

Ouyang Feng smiled, “I am just a lowly western area soldier in your ‘tian qian’ [front sky] group; you are the commander-in-chief, how would you recognize me?” In the Mongolian army, there were many prisoners of war who were then given jobs as soldiers; Ouyang Feng was from the west, once he intermingled with other soldiers from the same region, it was really not easy to single him out.

Listening to him Guo Jing was startled, he thought, “If he meant me harm, I would be dead by now.” He muttered, “Why did you say Rong’er is in my army?”

“You captured the Great Khan’s two sons, you destroyed cities and crushed the enemies, if not by that little girl’s direction, how can a dumb kid like you accomplish all that?” Ouyang Feng replied, “But that little girl has never shown herself up; it’s really strange. I have no choice but forcing you to hand her over to me.”

Guo Jing smiled, “If Rong’er is willing to show herself up that will be my earnest desire. Just think: would I hand her over to you?”

“Fine,” Ouyang Feng said, “You are not willing to hand her over to me, I’ll find my way to get hold of her. You have great authority as the commander of tens of thousands soldiers, but in Ouyang Feng’s eye, hey, hey … outside or inside this tent, I can come and go as I like; who can stop me?”

Guo Jing nodded, silently agreed to what he said.

“Dumb kid, what do you say we make an agreement?” Ouyang Feng asked. “What agreement?” Guo Jing replied with a question.

Ouyang Feng said, “You tell me her hiding place, I guarantee not to harm even a single strand of her hair. But if you don’t want to tell me, I will find her sooner or later anyway. When that time comes, humph, it doesn’t matter anymore, does it?”

Guo Jing knew Ouyang Feng was smart and resourceful; as long as Huang Rong was not on the Peach Blossom Island, there would come a day when she would be captured by him. Ouyang Feng was not making an empty threat. He hesitated for a moment before finally saying, “All right, I am going to make an agreement with you, but not like what you said.”

“What do you mean?” Ouyang Feng asked.

“Mr. Ouyang,” Guo Jing said, “Your martial art is a lot higher than mine, but I am a lot younger than you are. One day you will grow old and your strength will be gone; you won’t be able to defeat me anymore.” Before, Guo Jing always called him ‘Uncle Ouyang’ but since he killed Guo Jing’s five benevolent masters, Guo Jing’s hatred was as deep as the ocean; therefore, he could not say the word ‘Uncle’ anymore.

It never occurred to Ouyang Feng that someday he would grow old and lose his strength; this revelation send a chill to his heart, “What this dumb said is actually not dumb at all,” he thought. “What then?” he asked.

“There is very deep enmity between us,” Guo Jing said, “I can’t leave this enmity un-avenged. Even if you fly to the sky, there will come a day when I will come looking for you.”

Ouyang Feng lifted up his head and laughed loudly, “Before I grow old and lose my strength, I will kill you!” As soon as he finished talking he bent his knees slightly, and thrust both palms forward with an earth-shattering force.

By this time Guo Jing had mastered the ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ [changing muscle forging bone] from the Nine Yin Manual. Also he had trained himself in the part that Reverend Yideng had translated; his internal energy had enjoyed quite a bit of improvement. He leaned his body slightly to avoid the attack, and at the same time counterattack with ‘jian long zai tian’ [seeing dragon in the field]. Ouyang Feng received Guo Jing’s attack head-on, thinking that he was already familiar with this ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’. Besides, Guo Jing was Hong Qigong’s disciple, so his strength should be a lot less than Hong Qigong. Hence, he did not put too much energy on his defense. But unexpectedly when their palms met he was shaken. If his internal energy was not strong enough, he would be seriously injured. He was being careless and nearly lost in Guo Jing’s hand. He was shocked, “Perhaps this kid will already catch up with me before I grow old and lose my strength” he thought. Quickly he sent his left palm out.

Guo Jing again leaned sideways to evade, then returned the attack. This time Ouyang Feng did not dare to take it head on, he flicked his hand to redirect Guo Jing’s palm. Guo Jing did not know Ouyang Feng’s real intention, he thought Ouyang Feng simply parried his attack, who would have thought that inside that defensive move there was a hidden attack; Guo Jing felt a strong force surging toward his face, there was not enough time to evade, so he was forced to stretch out his right palm to block.

Speaking about internal energy strength, Guo Jing was still one level inferior to Ouyang Feng. The current situation was similar to the day at the imperial palace in Lin’an, inside the cave behind the waterfall; although Guo Jing would be able to hold his ground for a while, but in the end he would suffer a heavy injury or even death.

Ouyang Feng’s movement resembled a gourd, enticing the opponent to enter; which Guo Jing did. Ouyang Feng was delighted, but suddenly sensed Guo Jing pulled his right palm slightly, like he was losing his strength. Ouyang Feng sent more force to his palm, pressing harder; who would have thought that Guo Jing’s palm slid a little bit and thus avoid being crushed.

Ouyang Feng grunted ferociously, sending all his strength to his palm, thinking, “Today is the day you are going to die.”

Seeing the opponent’s fingertip swept to his chest, Guo Jing parried by sweeping his left palm horizontally while his right-hand index finger stretched out and fiercely went to Ouyang Feng’s ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint. It was the ‘Solitary Yang Finger’ he saw Reverend Yideng used. However, what he learned was superficial, he only saw the form, but did not know the variations within. In this critical moment instinctively he used mutual hands combat technique.

‘Solitary Yang Finger’ was the ‘Toad Stance’s adversary, how could Ouyang Feng not startled when he saw it? He leaped backward to elude, shouted angrily, “Old Duan Zhixing wants to give me a hard time?”

Unfortunately Guo Jing’s finger technique was not the real ‘Solitary Yang Finger’, hence it could not break the Toad Stance; but Ouyang Feng was scared away, without looking clearly he jumped back in shock. Only afterwards did he remember that the Solitary Yang Finger had an infinite variations; how could after launching an attack Guo Jing retracted his finger? Hence he knew Guo Jing had not learned it in its entirety. Without waiting for Guo Jing to launch the next stance both of his palms, one upward the other downward, one attack the other guarded, moved toward Guo Jing. This attack was so swift that Guo Jing did not have time to think, he simply jumped back to escape. ‘Crack!’ the small table behind him was smashed by the Western Poison’s palms.

Since he was gaining an upper hand, Ouyang Feng continued his attack by successively sending his palms; but suddenly he felt a gust of wind coming from behind, somebody attacked him. Without turning around he sent his left foot kicking backward. Turned out the attacker was also using his leg, so two legs collided, the attacker was thrown backward; luckily his bone was not broken, it looked like he had anticipated Ouyang Feng’s counterattack.

Ouyang Feng turned his head around only to see three old beggars standing on the tent’s entrance, they were the Beggar Clan’s three elders, Lu, Jian and Liang. Lu Youjiao swiftly moved toward Jian and Liang Zhanglao [Elders], then interlinked his arms with theirs. It was the Beggar Clan’s technique of combining power to fight a superior enemy using the-weak-subdue-the-strong method. During the Beggar Clan general assembly at Mount Jun to elect the new Bangzhu [Clan Leader] the other day, the Beggar Clan disciples had formed a human wall, rendering Guo Jing and Huang Rong helpless against them.

Ouyang Feng had never fought these three people, but from his first contact with Lu Youjiao’s leg he knew that Lu’s internal energy was not weak. The other two beggars looked not much different. If he fight Guo Jing one on one, he was certain he would win; but with the addition of these three stinky beggars he knew things would not end too good for him. He laughed a big laugh and said, “Dumb kid, your martial art has improved tremendously.”

He bent his legs and sat on the carpet, totally ignoring Lu Youjiao and the other two beggars. “What kind of agreement you want to make? Let me hear it,” he said.

“You want Miss Huang to explain the Nine Yin Manual to you,” Guo Jing said, “Whether she is willing to do that or not, it is entirely up to her; you must not harm even a single strand of her hair.”

Ouyang Feng laughed, “If she is willing, of course I won’t want to harm her in any way. Do you think it is easy to deal with the Old Heretic Huang?” he said, “But if she is not willing, how can it be that I can’t use a little bit of persuasion?”

Guo Jing shook his head, “No, you can’t.”

“Well, you want me to agree to this, what is there for me?” Ouyang Feng asked.

“From now on, if you fall into my hand, I will spare your life three times,” Guo Jing replied.

Ouyang Feng stood up, letting out a long laughter. His laugh was supported by a strong internal energy; it traveled far into the prairie. The horses were disturbed, they neighed and made commotion.

Guo Jing’s gaze pierced Ouyang Feng’s eyes, with a low voice he said, “This is not funny, and you know it. There will come a day you will fall into my hand.”

Although he was laughing Ouyang Feng was actually scared. He realized this kid knew the secret of the Nine Yin Manual, his martial art was improving by leaps and bounds; he really must not underestimate him. While his mouth was laughing, his mind had made a decision. “I, Ouyang Feng, am going to ask you, a stinky kid, for mercy? All right, let’s just wait and see,” he said with a smile.

Guo Jing extended his hand and said, “Once a gentleman said a word.”

Ouyang Feng smiled and replied, “Like a fast horse getting a whip.” He also extended his hand and patted Guo Jing’s hand three times. This was the way the people of Song Dynasty sealed their agreement; whoever broke it would be despised and disgraced for the rest of his life.

After sealing their agreement Ouyang Feng was about to interrogate Guo Jing on Huang Rong’s whereabouts some more, but suddenly with the corner of his eyes he caught a shadow moving outside the tent. That shadow was very swift; Ouyang Feng’s heart was stirred, quickly he went out the tent, but did not see anyone. He turned his head and said, “Within ten days I am going to visit you again. We’ll see whether you will spare my life, or will I spare yours?” With a loud laughter he moved swiftly, and a sort moment later his laughter was heard dozens of ‘zhang’s away.

Lu, Jian and Liang three elders looked at each other in astonishment, they thought, “This man’s martial art is really high. He is an extraordinary character, truly in par with our Hong Bangzhu.”

Guo Jing then told the three visitors the reason of Ouyang Feng’s visit. Lu Youjiao said, “He said Huang Bangzhu is in our army, that’s nonsense. If the Huang Bangzhu is here, how could we not know? Besides …”

Guo Jing sat back down, one hand supporting his cheek. “I actually think what he said is very reasonable. Oftentimes I have a feeling that Miss Huang is by my side; no matter how difficult the problem I am facing, she always gives me a wonderful solution. Only no matter what I think, I still can’t see her.” Speaking thus his eyes welled up with tears.

Lu Youjiao tried to console him, “Sir, please don’t worry, to be separated but for a moment, to be united forever in the future.”

“I have offended Miss Huang,” Guo Jing said, “I am afraid she won’t be willing to see me again. I don’t know what I must do to pay for this guilt.”

Lu, Jian and Liang three people looked at each other without saying anything.

Guo Jing continued, “Even if she is not willing to talk to me, if only she would let me see her once, I will be very much comforted.”

“Sir is tired, better go to bed soon,” Jian Zhanglao said, “Tomorrow morning we will discuss how we are going to deal with Ouyang Feng if he stirs up trouble again.”

The next morning the army continued their journey to the west. That evening after they pitched camp Lu Youjiao came and said, “Years ago Xiao Ren bought a painting in Jiangnan. I am a rough uneducated man, how could I comprehend the meaning behind this painting? While Sir is lonely in this army, Sir may enjoy this leisurely.” While speaking he put a roll of painting on the table.

Guo Jing unrolled the painting to take a look, he could not help but feeling astonished. The painting depicted a young maiden with a flower on her hair; she was sitting weaving silk on a loom. Her appearance resembled Huang Rong’s, only she looked distressed; her eyebrows were knitted together and her face looked thin and pale.

Guo Jing looked in surprise for half a day, he saw next to the picture were two lines of poem. The first one read, “Seven looms, in the springtime silkworms spit their raw silk, it is not easy to weave them into silk cloth. Do not use a pair of scissors so recklessly, otherwise the immortal ‘luan’ [a mythical bird] and the phoenix will be separated on two sides of the clothes.” The other one read, “Nine looms, a pair of flowers, a pair of leafs, and a pair of branches. From ancient time a shallow love often parts. From head to toe two hearts are bound together, passing through a strand of silk thread.” These two stanzas resembled the ‘si zhang ji’ [four looms/weaving machines] poem of Ying Gu, but the pain they carried was twice the ‘four looms’ had.

Although it was hard for Guo Jing to interpret the poem, he understood the ‘From ancient time a shallow love often parts’ part. After pondering it for half a day he thought, “This painting must be Rong’er’s handiwork; where did Lu Zhanglao get it from?”

He raised his head to ask, but Lu Youjiao had left early on. Hastily Guo Jing ordered his personal guard to summon him back. Lu Youjiao was persistent with what he said earlier, that he bought that painting at a bookstore in Jiangnan. Even if Guo Jing was ten times dumber, he’d know something was wrong. Lu Youjiao was a straightforward and rough warrior; how could he stroll into a bookstore and buy a painting? If the painting was a gift, he would throw it away without giving it a second thought. If he did buy it at a bookstore in Jiangnan, how come the maiden in the painting bore a very close resemblance to Huang Rong? But Lu Youjiao was determined not to reveal the truth; there was nothing he could do.

While he was hesitating, Jian Zhanglao walked in and whispered in his ears, “Just now Xiao Ren saw a shadow of a man moving on the tent toward our northeast; it swiftly disappeared without any trace. I am afraid that old scoundrel Ouyang Feng is going to sneak in tonight.”

“Good,” Guo Jing said, “We, four people will cooperate here to capture him.” “Xiao Ren has an idea,” Jian Zhanglao said, “Let’s see if Sir will agree.” “Any idea is good,” Guo Jing said, “Please tell me.”

Jian Zhanglao said, “This is a very ordinary idea: we dig a deep hole here, then we place twenty soldiers with bags of sand waiting outside. If he did not show up, consider him lucky, but if he did, I guarantee he can come but won’t be able to leave.”

Guo Jing was delighted, he thought that Ouyang Feng was very conceited, never considered others worthy to be looked at. This idea was an old trick, but actually very effective against somebody like him.

The three elders immediately supervised several soldiers to dig a very deep hole. The top of the hole was then covered with a rug, and a light wooden chair was placed on top of the rug. Twenty soldiers with sand bags in their hand were waiting outside the tent.

It was not uncommon for an army to dig holes in the desert, looking for water; so the activity was gone unnoticed.

The set up was completed and Guo Jing waited by the candlelight, reading. But Ouyang Feng did not show up that night. After pitching their camp the next day, again the three elders had some soldiers dug another hole, but again nothing happened that night. Toward the evening of the fourth day Guo Jing heard some strange noise among the tents; his heart was thumping fast. Suddenly there was a rustling noise outside his tent; with a long laugh Ouyang Feng walked inside his tent then casually walked toward the wooden chair.

‘Crack! Crack!’ with a loud noise both the man and the chair fell into the hole. The trap’s depth was about seven, eight ‘zhang’s [70 – 80 feet, about 25 meters], the mouth was narrow. Even if Ouyang Feng’s martial art were higher, how could he jump back up easily? Twenty soldiers swarmed the tent, and forty bags of sand were rapidly poured into the hole, burying Ouyang Feng’s body.

Lu Youjiao burst up in laughter, “Huang Bangzhu predicts like a deity …” he said. Jian Zhanglao cast him a glance; Lu Youjiao closed his mouth immediately. “What Huang Bangzhu?” Guo Jing quickly asked.

“Xiao Ren had a slip of tongue,” Lu Youjiao said, “I mean Hong Bangzhu. If Hong Bangzhu were here, he would have been delighted.”

Guo Jing stared at him, hard. He was about to ask another question when suddenly the soldiers outside his tent were shouting noisily. Guo Jing and the three elders quickly went out the tent to see the soldiers were pointing their fingers to the ground, shouting loudly. Guo Jing rushed forward to take a look, he saw the ground was rising up gradually, looked like something was trying to come out of the ground. Immediately Guo Jing realized what was going on, “With his excellent martial art Ouyang Feng is drilling the ground, trying to climb up,” he said. He commanded a dozen or so of his soldiers to ride their horses and trampled the ground at once.

The weight of the dozens or so soldiers and their horses was heavy enough to trample the raising ground back down. Even though Ouyang Feng’s strength was incredible he was not able to penetrate the ground, so the earth was slowly leveled up as before. To everybody surprise, in another location the ground was starting to rise again. The soldiers simply rode their horses to wherever the ground rose and trampled it flat.

Not too long afterwards the ground no longer rose anywhere. They assumed Ouyang Feng had lost his strength or even died of suffocation. Guo Jing ordered the soldiers to dismount their horses and dug the ground. It was already the first hour [between 11pm – 1 am]; the soldiers lifted up their torches high, they stood in a circle surrounding the digging.

About a dozen soldiers used spades and shovels dug a little over a ‘zhang’ before finally they saw Ouyang Feng was standing inside the sand. This location was a few ‘zhang’s away from the tent. Although the sand was soft, yet by using his bare hands Ouyang Feng was able to dig underground just like a mole. It was a demonstration of a very strong internal energy, truly extraordinary. The soldiers were astounded but full of admiration; they lifted him up and laid him on the ground.

Lu Youjiao probed him for breath, but felt his chest was still warm; he ordered the soldiers to get some iron chain to tie him up, for fear that Ouyang Feng would create problem once he was awake. Who would have thought that when he was crawling in the sand Ouyang Feng was unable to excavate his way upward because of the horses, he feigned death, thinking he would escape later. He suspended his own breath, and did not see Lu Youjiao stood beside him. But as soon as Lu Youjiao shouted his order to take some chain, Ouyang Feng leaped up, gave a loud shout, and grabbed Lu Youjiao’s main artery on his right hand.

It was a sudden change; a corpse went back to live. Everybody was shocked. Guo Jing rushed forward, his left hand pressed the ‘tao dao’ [pleasing talk] acupoint on Ouyang Feng’s back, while his right hand attacked the ‘ji zhong’ [spine’s central] acupoint on Ouyang Feng’s waist. These two were two main acupoints on the back; if Ouyang Feng was not buried under the ground, half-dead, and was very tired, how could he let his main acupoints be sealed that easily?

Ouyang Feng was startled, he swung his hand backward trying to fend off, but his acupoints were numb. He realized Guo Jing did not use his full strength; otherwise his internal organs would be shaken. Moreover, his hands and feet were weak; even if Guo Jing did not seal his acupoints still he would not be Guo Jing’s match. He was forced to let Lu Youjiao go and stood still.

“Mr. Ouyang,” Guo Jing said, “May I ask did you see Miss Huang?”

“I saw her shadow, that’s why I came looking for her,” Ouyang Feng replied. “Did you see her clearly?” Guo Jing pressed. Ouyang Feng hatefully said, “If that sly little girl is not in this, I bet you wouldn’t think of some clever trap like this.”

Guo Jing was silent for half a day, then he finally said, “You can go. I spare your life.” His right hand lightly waved, sending Ouyang Feng tumbled down a little over a ‘zhang’. He was afraid if he freed him in close proximity, Ouyang Feng would suddenly execute a counterattack.

Ouyang Feng turned around and said coldly, “I’ve never used any weapon dealing with a junior; but you are secretly helped by that sly girl of yours. She is very crafty. What happened to me tonight was the proof. I will be back within ten days with my snake staff. You have seen the vipers with your own eyes. Just watch out.” As soon as he finished speaking, Ouyang Feng flew away.

As Guo Jing looked at his shadow swiftly disappearing into the dark towards the north a chill crept up his spine. Remembering the venomous snake staff and the exquisiteness of Ouyang Feng’s stick technique very well; he could not refrain from feeling apprehensive. Although he had trained extensively in weaponry from the Six Freaks of Jiangnan, among those he had mastered none would be adequate to fight someone Ouyang Feng’s caliber; while it certainly was not a good idea to face the snake staff with his bare hands.

He was at a loss for a while; lifting up his eyes toward the sky he saw white snow flakes floating down in the darkness. Not long after he returned to his tent the weather turned cold. His soldiers started bonfires and got their horses inside their tents to protect them against the bitter cold weather outside.

The Beggar Clan people did not have any fur coats with them; with the sudden change in temperature they were forced to circulate their internal energy to keep their bodies warm. Right away Guo Jing ordered his troops to slaughter some sheep and make some leather coats. They were not as good as the tanned leather coats, but they helped the beggars to fight the cold.

The next day the weather turned even colder; the snow on the ground had turned into ice. The Khoresm’s army took advantage of this cold weather and made an attack; luckily Guo Jing had already anticipated this possibility. Using the ‘flying dragon’ formation they scored a big victory over the enemy; chasing them far into the night towards the snow-covered northern plains.

There was an ancient poem about the expedition to the west amidst a bitter cold weather: “The army general did not take out their golden armor at night. In the middle of the night the army set aside their spears, the wind blowing like a cutting knife. The sweats on the horses’ mane rose up like steam in the snow, the five-petal flower pattern on the (money) coin felt like ice, inside the tent the liquid ink to write letters froze over.”

Then there was another poem: “The soldiers and prisoners squeezed in the same station, the bones on the battlefield wrapped around the grassroots. Blowing wind like the blade of a sword sweeping wide, the horses’ hoofs got away from the frozen sand and stone.”

Guo Jing grew up in the northern desert, he was used to the bitter cold weather, but he remembered if Huang Rong were really in his army, she was raised in the south (Jiangnan), would she be able to withstand this bitter cold weather? His anxiety multiplied. The next several nights he roamed around the tents without alerting anybody; quietly investigate each and every tent, but not even Huang Rong’s shadow was to be seen.

Returning to his command-center tent, he saw Lu Youjiao was supervising the soldiers to dig another hole. “This Ouyang Feng is sly and alert, first time he fell into the trap, how can he fall for the second time?” Guo Jing asked.

“He would certainly think that we are going to prepare some other trap, but he would not expect us to prepare the same trap,” Lu Youjiao said, “It is called ‘a void inside a solid, and solid in an emptiness,’ an indiscernible combination of void and solid.”

Guo Jing cast a glance toward him, he thought, “You said leading little beggars did not need to use any military strategy, but you remembered the content of the military strategy book very well.”

Lu Youjiao continued, “But this man must have thought of a way to escape the sand piling on top of him, therefore, we must strive for a different method. We are going to use boiling water to soak him up.”

Guo Jing saw dozens of soldiers preparing about twenty big iron pots outside his tent. The soldiers used hatchets to break the ice and feed them into the pots using shovels. “Won’t he die of scalding?” Guo Jing asked.

“Sir had made an agreement with him that if he falls into your hands you will spare his life three times. But this time if he die from scalding, he won’t die in your hands, even if you want to spare his life you are powerless, therefore, it can’t be said that you break your promise,” Lu Youjiao reasoned.

Not too long afterwards the hole was dug, the mouth was covered with a rug, and a light wooden chair was placed on it. Outside the tent the soldiers were busy adding fuel to the fire underneath the pots; the ice were slowly melting into water, but the weather was just too cold; the water on the surface was slowly turning back into ice. “More heat, more heat!” Lu Youjiao urged.

Suddenly on the snow outside a shadow came lightning fast; Ouyang Feng with the stick in his hand had arrived on the tent’s entrance. “Dumb kid, whatever trap you prepared, your grandfather is not scared!” he said while flying toward the chair to sit.

Elders Lu, Jian, and Liang did not expect Ouyang Feng would arrive this soon; the ice inside the pots were barely melted into water; a very cold water, which certainly would not scald people to death. The water was even too cold to take a shower. They saw Ouyang Feng moved toward the chair, they could not help but feeling disappointed. ‘Crack!’ one more time with loud cursing the man and the chair fell into the hole. This time there were no sand bags around. With his level of martial art it was an easy matter for Ouyang Feng to climb back up. The three elders were helpless, they were afraid Guo Jing would be injured, “Sir, get out of the tent, quick!” they shouted in panic.

But suddenly somebody shouted from behind the tent, “Pour the water!” As soon as Lu Youjiao heard this voice, without hesitation he shouted, “Pour the water!” The soldiers lifted up the pots and poured the water into the hole.

Ouyang Feng was about to jump back up when the water from the first pot was poured over his head. He was shocked and was forced to fall back down. He used his snake staff as a brace against the bottom of the hole, and tried to jump up for the second time. This time he was prepared, he was sure he would not be forced to fall down by pouring water. Unexpectedly to him the weather was really cold, as the water left the pot it froze up immediately; as Ouyang Feng was jumping up, the water around his feet was turning into ice. With his incredible strength he tried to jump up, but ‘Bonk!’ he felt a shot of pain as his head was hit by a block of ice. He tried hard to kick around, but his feet were firmly buried in ice, he could not even move them. He was extremely shocked; with a loud shout he struggled with all his might; but just as his feet start to loosen up, his upper body was drenched in cold water, which also turned into ice.

The soldiers pouring the water had been trained well; four soldiers lifted the pot to pour water, while the other four-man teams were ready behind them. One team after another they pour water into the hole like a waterwheel. To protect themselves from the boiling water, each man bound a cloth on their faces. Who would have thought that the snow would not boil, but the cold water could also paralyze the enemy. In a short period of time twenty pots of water had been poured into the hole, forming a four, five ‘zhang’s and about seven feet in diameter ice column.

Everybody was excited, what they thought was a failure turned into a huge success. The three elders supervised the soldiers to dig around the hole; then tied a rope around the ice column. With the help of twenty horses the ice column was pulled up to the ground.

From all over the camp officers and soldiers alike came to the command-center tent to watch the marvelous sight. The soldiers joined their strength to raise the ice column up. Under the bright torch light they saw Ouyang Feng showing his teeth with an angry look on his face, his hands and feet splayed wide. He was frozen inside the ice column, could not move even one bit. The officers and soldiers erupted in thunderous applause.

Lu Youjiao was afraid with his profound internal energy Ouyang Feng would be able to melt the ice; he ordered the soldiers to melt some more ice and pour the water on the ice column to make it thicker.

“I had made an agreement with him, to spare his life three times. Break the ice, let him go!” Guo Jing ordered.

The three elders were disappointed, but a hero ought to keep his words, so they did not say anything. Lu Youjiao took a hammer and walked toward the ice column to break it when suddenly Jian Zhanglao called out, “Hold on!” He turned to Guo Jing and asked, “Sir, with his ability, how long do you think Ouyang Feng will survive inside the ice?”

“He might be able to survive for a couple of hours,” Guo Jing said, “Longer that that his life might be in danger.” “Very well,” Elder Jian said, “Let him suffer two more hours. We can spare his life, but he has to suffer for a while.” Remembering Ouyang Feng had killed his masters, Guo Jing nodded his head in approval.

The news traveled fast, officers and soldiers from other units heard about it and they came to watch. To the three elders Guo Jing said, “From the ancient times there was a saying, ‘a hero could be killed, but not humiliated.’ Although he is an evil man, but he is still a grandmaster of his martial art school. How can we let him be the laughingstock of others?” Straightaway he ordered his soldiers to erect a tent around the ice column and arranged a sentry duty. Nobody was allowed to enter the tent to see, not even a general.

Two hours later the three elders shattered the ice column, let Ouyang Feng free. Ouyang Feng sat cross-legged on the ground, circulating his energy. After vomiting three mouthfuls of dark blood he went away angrily.

Guo Jing and the three elders were watching him the whole two hours; although looked weary he was able to walk away just like that, he had made them sighed in admiration.

All this time Guo Jing was continuously in a daze. He was afraid when Ouyang Feng was still inside the ice column, but after Ouyang Feng was gone, he still could not calm his heart down.

He sat down, thinking hard. Never in his life had he felt so lonely, his heart was empty. He tried hard to think the reason behind it all. Suddenly it dawned on him that before Lu Youjiao issued the command to pour the water, he recalled hearing someone shouted in low voice, ‘Pour the water!’ He felt that voice was so familiar, he was 80, 90% certain that voice had Huang Rong’s accent; but because Ouyang Feng was falling into the trap that he was thinking of a more urgent matter and did not pay too much attention to the voice. ‘Pour the water!’ these words were buzzing in his ears while his heart was full of doubt. He sprang up and muttered, “Rong’er is really in the army. I have to examine everybody, officers and soldiers alike, not overlooking anyone. I am sure she won’t get away this time.” But then another thought came into his mind, “She doesn’t want to see me, why would I painstakingly force her to come out?” Unrolling the painting, he stared blankly at the girl in it; his heart was filled with bitter sweet feeling.

In the quiet night suddenly he heard hoof beats coming fast from afar. A short while later he heard his guard asked permission and soon a messenger entered his tent, bringing Genghis Khan’s military dispatch. Turned out the Mongolian army had advanced far into the enemy’s territory, enjoying victory everywhere they went. Just a few hundred ‘li’s to the west they would reach Khoresm’s fortified city of Samarkhand. Genghis Khan had learned that this city had become Khoresm’s new capital. It was defended by a large army of at least a hundred thousand strong with enough provision to last a long time. The defense was solid; the city wall had enjoyed a notorious reputation as unbreakable. Therefore, Genghis Khan ordered the four armies to join forces and attack simultaneously.

At daybreak the next day, Guo Jing’s army left their camp heading south along the river. In ten days they arrived outside Samarkhand’s city wall. Seeing Guo Jing’s small army, the enemy went out the city to engage them in fierce battle. With his ‘feng yang’ [scattering wind] and ‘yun chui’ [dangled cloud] Guo Jing managed to kill about five thousand enemy’s soldier in just half a day. With this defeat the Khoresm army was forced to go back inside their fortified city.

On the third day Genghis Khan’s big army, as well as Jochi’s and Chagatai’s, arrived one after another. More than a hundred thousand soldiers surrounded the city, attacking it from all directions. But Samarkhand’s defense was so tight; thousands of Mongolian soldiers and officers were wounded or dead, yet the city was still standing strong.

The next day Chagatai’s eldest son attempted to render meritorious merit; bravely he attacked the city wall, unfortunately an arrow was shot from the city wall, hit his head and he died. Genghis Khan loved this grandson, seeing him die in the battlefield his grief and anger was unspeakable. When the grandson’s personal guards brought his body over, Genghis Khan threw himself over the corpse with tears in his eyes, embracing his dead grandson. He pulled the arrow that killed him, only to see it was a wolf tooth arrow decorated with an eagle’s feather, the shaft was inlaid with gold, engraved with four characters, ‘da jin zhao wang’ [Prince Zhao Wang of the Great Jin]. The people around him who were literate read those words to him.

“Ah!” Genghis Khan angrily roared, “It’s that scoundrel Wanyan Honglie!” Leaping to his horseback he issued a decree, “All officers and soldiers, big and small, hear this: Anybody who is brave enough to break the city’s defense and capture Wanyan Honglie to avenge my grandson; the city’s women and children, jade and silk, everything is his.” A hundred riders immediately were dispatch everywhere to announce the Great Khan’s decree.

The other three armies heard this proclamation and their spirit rose; like a swarm of locust they attacked the city wall with earth- shattering battle cry. Some were trying to climb the wall barehanded; some were scaling ladders, some were throwing ropes with hook, some were using large tree trunk as a battering ram against the city gate. But the warriors on the city wall defended their city bravely. The battle continued until evening; the Mongolians had lost about four thousand men, yet the city of Samarkand was still standing like a mountain.

Since his military expedition against Khoresm started, this was Genghis Khan’s first major defeat. That night inside his tent he grieved over his beloved grandson’s death, his anger erupted like a thunder.

Guo Jing went back to his tent, browsing through his ‘Wumu’s Legacy’, trying to find a way to break the city; but Samarkhand was different from the cities in China, hence the methods described in the book were useless.

Guo Jing invited Lu Youjiao to his tent to discuss this situation. Knowing Lu Youjiao would go to Huang Rong for advice, as soon as he left the tent, Guo Jing followed behind. Who would have thought that Lu Youjiao had arranged Beggar Clan disciples to stand all the way from Guo Jing’s tent to his own? As they see Guo Jing, those disciples saluted him with loud voice.

Guo Jing understood immediately, “This must be another one of Rong’er’s schemes,” he thought, “Ay! She has always found a way to evade me. She is able to predict my every action and every movement accurately.”

More than two hours later, Lu Youjiao came back and reported, “This big city is really difficult to break, Xiao Ren has not found any good idea. Let us wait a few more days, perhaps an opportunity will present itself for us to attack.”

Guo Jing nodded without saying anything. When he left Mongolia heading south for the first time, he was just a na├»ve and simple- hearted youngster; but over the past year he had experienced misery, difficult and sometimes dangerous days. His experience had matured him tremendously. That night inside his tent he could not help but feel emotional as he quietly pondered the meaning of two lines of poems in the painting. He thought, “Rong’er must think I am heartless, she is waiting for me to apologize. Too bad I am stupid since the day I was born, I don’t know how to make amends, I don’t know how to do as she wishes.” Thinking these things he became more anxious than ever.

That night he could not sleep well, his thought was full of Huang Rong; he kept tossing and turning in his tent. It was after the third hour that he finally was able to sleep. He dreamt of meeting Huang Rong. He asked her how he could apologize to her. Huang Rong replied by whispering something in his ears. Guo Jing was elated, he woke up immediately; but then he could not remember what Huang Rong had said. He tried painstakingly to remember, but no such luck. He wanted to go back to sleep again and asked Huang Rong in his dream, but it seemed like the sleep had already left him.

Burning with anxiety he knocked his own head several times; suddenly he got an inspiration, “I can’t remember, but why don’t I ask her again?” He loudly shouted, “Quickly invite Lu Zhanglao to come over.”

Lu Youjiao thought what kind of urgent military affair would need his attention? Wrapping his body with the sheepskin he went barefooted to Guo Jing’s tent.

“Lu Zhanglao, no matter what I want to meet with Miss Huang tomorrow evening,” Guo Jing said, “I don’t care how you’d do it. Whether you come up with an idea yourself, or you ask others, but I want you to present me with a clever idea how I can see her. I give you until noon tomorrow.”

Lu Youjiao was flabbergasted. “Huang Bangzhu is not here, how can Sir meet with her?” “You have a divine wisdom, you should be able to think of something,” Guo Jing replied, “If you can’t present a good idea by noon tomorrow, I am going to handle you according to the military law.” Being aware that he was speaking nonsense, Guo Jing was secretly amused.

Lu Youjiao was about to reason when Guo Jing turned his head to tell his guard, “Prepare a hundred soldiers to act as executioners tomorrow at noon.” His guard acknowledged with a loud voice.

Lu Youjiao looked distressed; dejectedly he walked back to his tent.

It was snowing heavily early morning the next day; the city wall was covered with ice, slick like oil. It was impossible to scale the wall. Genghis Khan withdrew his army that day. He thought the winter was coming, the coming days would get colder and colder; they wouldn’t see warmer days until the second or third month, which was still several months away. If he decided to leave this city and proceeded to the west, then he would practically leave around a hundred thousand enemies behind him, with a potential to cut his way back to Mongolia. But if he stationed some of his army to guard the city, he was afraid the enemy would get some enforcement then his troops would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Once a battle broke, his troops might be scattered in this foreign land and he would lost considerable men and horses.

Genghis Khan paced back and forth in front of his tent with his hands behind his back. He was lost in thought and stared blankly at the snow-covered peak on which the city was built. That peak was so high that it reached to the clouds above. Genghis Khan creased his brows. He saw the peak was extremely weird; it towered alone in the middle of a desert. There was no vegetation grew on it, the locals called it ‘tu mu feng’ [the bald wooden peak]. Samarkhand was built leaning on this peak, the foothill was actually served as the west city wall. He imagined whoever built this city must have spared no expense; the military strategists and the builders who designed this city must have had incredible ability and wisdom. This hill was very steep, practically a huge solid rock, nothing could grow on it; even monkeys or apes had no way of climbing it up. Samarkhand had this kind of truly impenetrable defense.

Genghis Khan thought, “Ever since the start of my military career, I have been in hundreds of battles, big and small; yet I have never faced as difficult situation as I have today. I wonder if the Heaven is going to cut me short?” He sat on the horseback, staring blankly at the falling snowflakes. The tents were covered with snow; while inside the city smokes went up the chimneys. Everything just added to his misery.

Guo Jing’s mind was filled with another kind of apprehension; he was wondering if his brute force method of forcing Huang Rong to show herself would actually make her hate him even more. What if Lu Youjiao had determined not to open his mouth? Certainly he could not behead him, could he?

It was almost noon, with composed face Guo Jing sat in his tent; while on the either sides of the tent stood the executioners, waiting. Then the bugle sounded, announcing it was noon.

Lu Youjiao walked into the tent, “Xiao Ren has thought of an idea, but I am afraid Sir would find it difficult to do,” he said. Guo Jing was delighted, “Tell me, quick! I don’t care even if it requires my life. What’s so difficult?” he asked.

Lu Youjiao pointed to the peak of the ‘bald wooden peak’ and said, “Tonight about half an hour to midnight, Huang Bangzhu will be waiting there.”

Guo Jing was silent. “How can she climb there?” he asked, “Aren’t you just making a fool out of me?”

“Didn’t I say from the start it’s not going to be easy?” Lu Youjiao said, “Even if I invented an ingenious plan, it would be in vain anyway.” Finished speaking he made a bow, turned around and walked out the tent.

Guo Jing thought, “Sure enough it was Huang Rong’s words; she is calling me useless. This bald peak is a lot steeper than the Iron Palm Peak, the Mongolian cliff was nothing compared to it. I wonder if there is a deity on the peak who will hang down a rope for me to climb?”

Dejectedly he dismissed the executioners then walked toward the peak, staring blankly at the top. He noticed that from top to bottom the peak did not show any difference, its surface was covered with a thick layer of ice, looked like a slippery crystal, much like the ice column enclosing Ouyang Feng the other day. It was an out-of-this-world mountain, other than birds, no man or beast would be able to reach the top.

Guo Jing looked up to the peak; suddenly ‘splat!’ his fur cap fell on the snow. In an instant a thought came flashing in his mind, “If I can’t see Rong’er, it would be better to die anyway. Although this peak is dangerous, I should risk my life climbing it. Even if I fall down and die, I would still die for her.” Once he reached a decision he felt better immediately.

That evening he ate until he was full; then he inserted a dagger on his waist and slung a coil of rope on his back. It was not dark yet when he walked out his tent. To his surprise he saw the three elders Lu, Jian, and Liang were waiting outside, they said, “Xiao Ren will see Sir off to the peak.”

“See me off to the peak?” Guo Jing was confused.

“Certainly,” Lu Youjiao said, “Doesn’t Sir have an appointment to meet Huang Bangzhu on the peak tonight?”

Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised, “So Rong’er is not deceiving me after all,” he thought. With a delighted heart he walked along the three elders to the ‘bald wooden peak’.

He saw dozens of his soldiers were waiting by the peak with dozens of cattle and sheep. Lu Youjiao said, “Butcher!”

The soldier lifted up his saber and slashed the sheep’s hind leg. While the blood was still warm, the leg was planted on the peak’s wall. The blood froze in short time, the leg was firmly planted on the stone wall, then it was further reinforced with iron nails.

Guo Jing had not understood yet what they were doing. Another soldier chopped the other sheep’s hind leg and stuck it to the wall, approximately four feet above the first one. Guo Jing was delighted, he understood now that the three elders were making sheep legs ladder. It was cruelty against the animals, but there was simply no better way of doing this.

He saw Lu Youjiao leaped vertically up and perched on the second leg; Jian Zhanglao chopped the next sheep leg and tossed it upward, Lu Youjiao stuck the leg to the wall. Several legs later, this ‘sheep ladder’ had reached dozens of ‘zhang’s high; when the legs were chopped on the ground and tossed up, they would freeze up by the time they reached their destination. Guo Jing helped the three elders hung the rope down. They hoisted the sheep up alive and butcher them just before sticking up their legs on the wall.

As the ‘sheep ladder’ had reached about a half way up, they felt the wind was a lot stronger compared to the ground. Fortunately these four were martial art experts; their bodies slightly swayed, but their feet were steadily planted on the legs. Still, for fear that they might skid on the legs and lose their footing they tied a long rope on their waists, so the four of them would be able to help each other in case of an accident.

They were busy working until almost midnight when finally the ‘sheep ladder’ reached the peak. The three elders no doubt were exhausted, while Guo Jing himself was sweating profusely. Lu Youjiao was panting and smiling at the same time, “Sir, can you forgive Xiao Ren?” he asked.

Guo Jing felt bad, but also grateful, “I really don’t know how to repay three gentlemen’s kindness,” he said.

“It was Bangzhu’s idea, even if it is more difficult than it was, we still would have to obey. Who told us to have such a cunning and weird Bangzhu?” Lu Youjiao said. Three elders burst in laughter, turned around and slowly descended the peak.

Only after watching the three elders step by step scaling the hillside safely that Guo Jing turned around and saw the magnificent scenery on the hilltop. Ten thousands years of cold had created a world of crystal of many colors; some resembled reddish-green flowers and grass; some resembled strange beast or exotic birds; some resembled a forest of rocks; some resembled tree branches or bamboo grooves. Guo Jing enjoyed the scenery with amazement; his heart was full of praises.

Thinking that very soon Huang Rong would climb the ‘sheep ladder’ to see him, his blood rushed through his body, giving him a warm, fuzzy feeling, making his cheeks red. He was in daze. Suddenly he heard a girl’s soft giggle. This giggle was like an electric shock surged through Guo Jing. He turned around quickly, and saw under the moonlight a young girl smiled sweetly looking at him. Who else if not Huang Rong? Although Guo Jing knew perfectly well that she had promised to see him there, but to actually see her in person, he felt like he was dreaming.

Two people stared at each other for a moment then both of them rushed toward each other, ignoring the slippery cold ice of the peak; because of their grief and joy, they ran and slipped together. Guo Jing was afraid Huang Rong might be injured, before he even touched the ground he kicked back and propelled his body forward, grabbing her, embracing her in his arms. They had been separated for more than a year and they missed each other like crazy. This time they meet again, how could they not be happy?

After quite a while Huang Rong gently pried herself loose. They sat side by side on a round-stone-like ice block. “If I did not see how crazily you missed me, I wouldn’t want to see you,” she said.

Guo Jing only stared at her, did not say even half a word. After a long time he opened his mouth, “Rong’er.” “Mmm?” Huang Rong answered.

Guo Jing was extremely joyful; he called again, “Rong’er.”

Huang Rong smiled, “Haven’t you called me enough?” she asked, “These past few days, even though I was not with you, haven’t you called me dozens of times every day?”

“How did you know?” Guo Jing asked.

Huang Rong smiled again, “You could not see me, but actually I saw you quite often.” “You are always in our army, how come you did not let me see you?” Guo Jing asked.

“You still have a face to ask me?” Huang Rong was angry. “Once you found out I am alive and well, aren’t you going to marry that Princess Huazheng? I’d rather not let you know my whereabouts. Do you think I am dumb?”

As soon as he heard she mentioned the name ‘Huazheng’ Guo Jing’s delight was gone; his face looked so depressed that Huang Rong quickly looked around and said, “That crystal palace is so beautiful, let us go inside and find someplace to sit and chat.”

Guo Jing followed her gaze and saw a bulk solid ice resembling a cavern; under the dim moonlight it glowed beautifully. It did look like a big crystal block carved into a palace. Two people walked hand in hand entering the cave, and then found someplace to sit on. “Speaking about how you treated me on the Peach Blossom Island, tell me, should I forgive you?” Huang Rong said.

Guo Jing stood up and said, “Rong’er, let me kowtow to you a hundred times to apologize.” He was serious, immediately knelt down and started kowtowing.

Huang Rong sweetly smiled, held out her hands to stand him up. “Let it be. If I haven’t forgiven you, I wouldn’t want to crawl to this peak even if you chop Lu Youjiao’s head a hundred times!”

Guo Jing was really happy, “Rong’er, you are really good.”

“What are you talking about good or not good?” Huang Rong said, “Originally I thought you wholeheartedly wanted to avenge your masters, certainly you don’t have the least of me in your heart; naturally I was really angry! Later on I learned about how you strike an agreement with Ouyang Feng; you are willing to spare his life three times for my sake. Only then did I know that you still have me in your heart.”

Guo Jing shook his head, “I can’t believe it’s only now that you know my heart.” Huang Rong pursed her lips and smiled, “Did you see what I am wearing?” she asked.

Thus far Guo Jing’s eyes only looked at Huang Rong’s face; only after Huang Rong mentioned it that he turned his gaze to her clothes. Turned out she was wearing the black sable fur coat that he gave her when they first met at Zhangjiakou [Kalgan]. His heart was moved, he held out his hand and tightly hold Huang Rong’s hand.

Two people sat leaning to each other for a moment. Finally Guo Jing broke the silence, “Rong’er, Da Shifu [First Master] said that you were captured by Ouyang Feng at the Temple of the Iron Spear; how did you manage to escape from his hand?”

Huang Rong sighed. “I feel sorry for Lu Shige’s [Martial (older) Brother] nice Cloud Village. The Old Poison wanted me to explain the Nine Yin Manual for him. I said the explanation is not difficult, but I needed a good and quiet place. The Old Poison said if that was the case, we would find some secluded temple. I said Buddhist monks are disgusting, I don’t like eating vegetarian food. The Old Poison then asked what I wanted. I said nearby Lake Tai there was a place called the Cloud Village; the scenery is beautiful, the food and wine are superb. The only thing is that the village master is my friend; it made him rather suspicious.”

“That’s right,” Guo Jing said, “Did he decide not to go?”

“No, he is arrogant,” Huang Rong said, “He is never afraid of other people. The more I told him, the more he wanted to go. He said no matter how many friends I have, the Old Poison would face them all. When we arrived at the Cloud Village, actually Lu Shige father and son were not home; they went north of the river to the city of Baoying, to visit their in-laws, Cheng Da Xiaojie’s [Eldest Miss Cheng] family. You know that the Zhuangzhu [Village Master] had learned building technique from my father according to the ‘wu xing ba gua’ [five ways eight diagram]. As soon as the Old Poison stepped into the village, he felt something was not right. He wanted to pull me out of there, but I entered to the east and turned to the west, very soon he lost my track. Hard as he tried, he could not find me, and in his anger he burned the Cloud Village down.”

“Ah!” Guo Jing gasped, “I did stop by the Cloud Village looking for you, but I found it in rubble. Turned out it was the Old Poison’s doing.”

“I knew he was going to destroy the village,” Huang Rong said, “So I warned everybody to get out. Although he could not catch me, the Old Poison is really evil and cruel. He guarded the way toward the Peach Blossom Island, hoping to catch me there. Several times I was nearly caught. Afterwards I ran to the north, toward the Mongolian border, and he followed. ‘Sha gege’ [dumb big brother], luckily you are dumb. If you are as smart as the Old Poison, you two will surround me from both directions. I may not know where to hide.”

Guo Jing simply blushed and smiled stupidly.

“But finally you are getting smarter, you knew how to push Lu Youjiao to think of something,” Huang Rong said. “Rong’er, it was you who taught me,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong was astonished, “I taught you?”

“You taught me in a dream,” Guo Jing replied. Then he told her the dream he had the other night.

This time Huang Rong did not laugh at him, in fact, her heart was moved. She said quietly, “The people of ancient times used to say that perfect honesty and sincerity could open up metal and stone. You think about me and miss me this much; I should’ve let you see me sooner.”

“Rong’er,” Guo Jing said, “Later on you will never leave me forever, won’t that be good?”

Huang Rong swept her gaze around the marvelous structures cluttered on the peak. “Jing Gege, I am cold,” she suddenly said. Guo Jing hastily took his own fur coat off and wrapped it on Huang Rong’s body. “Let us go down,” he said.

“All right,” Huang Rong said, “We’ll come back here tomorrow night. I am going to explain the Nine Yin Manual in detail for you.” Guo Jing was astounded, “What?” he asked.

Huang Rong’s right hand was still holding Guo Jing’s left hand; she squeezed her hand and said, “My father has translated the last part of the manual, where the sentences were jumbled. I’ll explain everything to you tomorrow night.”

“This Sanskrit part is obviously translated by Reverend Yideng,” Guo Jing thought, “Why did she say it was his father?” He was full of doubts, was about to ask again when Huang Rong squeezed his hand one more time. He knew there must be a reason, so he agreed without asking anymore questions. Two people went down the peak.

Once they were in his tent, Huang Rong whispered in his ear, “Ouyang Feng also climbed the ‘bald wooden peak’, he hid behind us as we speak, secretly listening to us.”

Guo Jing was startled, “Ah! I didn’t even know he was there.”

“He was hiding behind a huge ice block,” Huang Rong said, “The Old Poison is extremely crafty, but this time he forgot that the ice is transparent, it could not conceal anything. It was not until the moonlight shone on it did I see a blurry shadow behind it.”

“So you talked about the Nine Yin Manual was actually for his benefit,” Guo Jing said.

“Hmm, I want to lure him to the peak, then we remove the ‘sheep ladder’; let’s see if he can meditate to become an immortal on that mountain peak, maybe he’ll become a deity,” Huang Rong said.

Guo Jing was very happy; he clapped his hands and cheered.

The next day Genghis Khan attacked the city again. Another thousand or so Mongolian soldiers died. The Khoresm soldiers on the city wall threw some insults and cursed their enemy. Genghis Khan flew into rage; but sweeping the battlefield with his eyes he saw the dead body of Mongolian soldiers and horses; he was upset.

That very evening Guo Jing, Huang Rong and the three Beggar Clan Elders readied themselves, they only had to wait for Ouyang Feng to climb the peak, then they would destroy the sheep ladder immediately. Who would have thought that Ouyang Feng was so cunning and had anticipated this; as long as Guo Jing and Huang Rong did not climb up, he also stayed down, hiding.

Huang Rong was forced to think of something else. She took some ropes and soaked them in oil. Khoresm was rich in petroleum; more than a thousand years ago the people dug a well to find water, but they found oil instead. Since then the people had used oil to cook their meals. The Mongolian army had seized several barrels of this oil and used them as fuel.

Jing and Rong, two people climbed to the peak with ropes soaked in oil on their back. Then they hid the ropes behind a big ice block. Two people sat inside the crystal palace talking to each other. Not too long afterwards they saw Ouyang Feng’s indistinct shadow appeared behind a big ice block. His lightness kungfu had been trained to perfection; he was extremely quiet, he never expected those two people to be aware that he was there.

Right away Huang Rong started talking about the manual, which they discussed earnestly. Of course they were discussing the real Manual. Ouyang Feng listened attentively, he found the manual was really marvelous; could not help but feeling ecstatic. He thought even if he compelled this little girl to explain, she might not tell him the whole thing, but right now he was eavesdropping he felt very fortunate.

Huang Rong slowly explained, and Guo Jing pretended to ask a lot of questions. Ouyang Feng thought, “He did not get such a simple truth, he is really stupid.”

Suddenly the horn was sounded urgently on the ground. Guo Jing jumped up immediately, “The Great Khan summons the generals, I have to go,” he called out. Actually it was a false alarm; he had made this arrangement in advance.

“We’ll go down together,” Huang Rong said.

“We are going up and down this peak, so much hassle,” Guo Jing said, “Can’t we do it inside my tent?”

“No, that Old Ouyang Feng has been looking for me everywhere, he is so cunning; it is extremely difficult to find a place to hide from him,” Huang Rong said, “But even if he were ten times more cunning, definitely he won’t guess that we are able to come up to this peak.”

Ouyang Feng was really smug, he thought, “Hey, this tiny, tiny peak is nothing; even if you run to the end of the earth I will still chase you.”

“Then you’d better wait here,” Guo Jing said, “I should be finished within an hour or so; I’ll hurry back up here.” Huang Rong nodded her approval.

Without saying anything else Guo Jing climbed down the peak. He was a little bit apprehensive about leaving Huang Rong alone on the top with Ouyang Feng, but he thought Ouyang Feng must be dying to listen to the Manual’s secret; certainly he would not harm Huang Rong yet.

About the time needed to eat a bowl of rice later Huang Rong stood up and thought aloud, “Why is Jing Gege not back yet? I wonder if there are ghosts on this peak. Maybe Yang Kang or Ouyang Ke’s ghosts are here. I think I’d better go down, I’ll comeback with Jing Gege later on.”

Ouyang Feng was afraid she might see him, he curled up behind the ice block, did not dare to move even so slightly. He saw Huang Rong was climbing down the peak.

Guo Jing and the three elders were waiting on the ground. As soon as Huang Rong was down, they lighted a fire and burned the rope. Turned out when Guo Jing went down, he wrapped the oil-soaked rope on each of the sheep legs. As the rope was burned, the heat melted the ice that held the legs frozen to the wall, so that the legs dropped one by one to the ground.

The fire slowly crept upward along the winding rope. The dark night made the fire’s reflection on the snow and ice looked frighteningly beautiful. Huang Rong clapped her hands in delight and asked, “Jing Gege, would you say we should spare his life this time?”

“This is the third time,” Guo Jing said, “We can’t break our agreement.”

Huang Rong smiled, “I have an idea,” she said, “You don’t have to break your agreement, but you can kill him to avenge your masters.”

Guo Jing was delighted, “Rong’er, you are always full of ideas,” he said, “Tell me your marvelous idea.”

Huang Rong smiled, “It’s not difficult,” she said, “We let the Old Poison eats the northwest wind for ten whole days and nights; let him freeze and starve, he will be dead tired. Then we rebuild the ‘sheep ladder’, help him get back down. That will be the third time we spare his life, won’t it?”

“That’s correct,” Guo Jing said.

“You have spared his life three times by then, you don’t have to show leniency anymore,” Huang Rong said. “We wait here on the ground. As soon as he is down, we can start fighting him. We will have the three elders’ help; so with five people against a half-dead man, you say can we kill him?”

“We certainly can,” Guo Jing said, “But this way we are not acting too gentlemanly, don’t you think?”

“Hey,” Huang Rong scolded, “Do we need to talk gentlemanly toward this kind of evil and cruel man? Did he act gentlemanly when he killed your five masters?”

Thinking about his benevolent masters’ cruel death, Guo Jing was enraged. He also thought that Ouyang Feng’s skill was so high that if he let him off this time, he might not find another opportunity to seek revenge. Therefore, he gritted his teeth and said, “Very well, let’s do it.”

Two people went inside the tent. This time they discussed the Nine Yin Manual for real. They found out that the other party’s martial art was progressing tremendously, they were really grateful.

After the discussion Guo Jing said, “That traitor Wanyan Honglie is inside the city wall. We know he is there, but there is nothing we can do. Can you think of some marvelous way to break the city’s defense?”

Huang Rong was doubtful. “These past several days I have been racking my brain,” she said, “I can think of at least a dozen ways to do it, but none of these guarantees victory.”

Guo Jing replied, “Within the Beggar Clan there are some brothers, perhaps a dozen of them, whose lightness kungfu is superb. What if they plus we, two people, try to climb the city wall?”

Huang Rong shook her head. “Not that easy,” she said, “Every ‘zhang’ of the wall is heavily guarded by soldiers with bows and arrows. Let’s not talk about climbing the wall; once inside, there are more than a hundred-thousand troops. We can’t even force our way to open up the gate.”

Two people talked all night long; they did not even go to sleep.

The next day Genghis Khan attacked the city again. About ten thousand Mongolian soldiers used rock-throwers, rained the city with large rocks. But the soldiers defending the city took shelter inside blockhouses; the stones devastated the common people’s residences, but the casualty among the defending troops was actually only a few. The attack went on until the third day. The Mongolian army had used hundreds of different tactics, but so far the result was minimal.

On the fourth day snowflakes came floating down from the sky. Guo Jing looked up the peak and said, “I think we don’t have to wait for ten days, Ouyang Feng would be frozen to half-dead.”

“His internal energy is very profound,” Huang Rong said, “Chances are he will survive for ten days.” She was just closing her mouth when both of them cried out in alarm; something was falling from the peak, it looked like Ouyang Feng.

Huang Rong clapped her hands, “The Old Poison can’t take it anymore, he is killing himself!” she said; but straight away she called out in wonder, “Uh, strange! How did he do that?” Ouyang Feng did not fall straight down, but his body was floating in the sky like a kite. Jing and Rong, two people were extremely astonished; how could someone fall from thousands of ‘zhang’ tall mountain peak did not meet a violent death, but floating slowly instead? Could it be the Old Poison possessed some witchcraft?

In the meantime, Ouyang Feng had fallen further down. Now two people could see clearly that he was naked, but there were two balloon-like things on top of his head. Suddenly Huang Rong understood what was going on, “It’s too bad!” she called out.

Turned out when Ouyang Feng was stranded on the ‘bald wooden peak’, although his martial art was profound, he knew he could not slide down this thousand-zhang peak. After enduring several days of hunger and cold he had a sudden inspiration. He stripped down to his underpants and firmly tied his trousers into knots. Afraid that his trousers might not be enough, he took the robe and tied it to his pants, then tied the whole thing onto his waist. Clenching up his teeth he jumped down from the mountain peak.

It was an extremely risky endeavor, but he was desperate; he had no other alternative. Once he jumped from the peak, his pair of trousers ballooned up and weakened his fall. He was naked, his hands were nearly frozen; he fought the cold and the wind by circulating his deep internal energy.

Huang Rong was amused and upset at the same time; momentarily she was at lost on how to deal with this new development.

By this time both armies inside and outside the city wall had found out about this; tens of thousand pairs of eyes looked up to see this flying man in the sky. Many low-ranking soldiers thought it was a deity descending to the earth; they all knelt down on the ground, worshiping.

Guo Jing saw the direction Ouyang Feng was falling; looked like he was going to land inside the city wall. He waited until Ouyang Feng was dozens of ‘zhang’s away, then grabbing an iron bow and an arrow he shot Ouyang Feng’s body. He thought being airborne, Ouyang Feng would not be able to fend off; however, he still remembered his agreement to spare Ouyang Feng’s life three times, so he aimed at a non-fatal spot; Ouyang Feng’s thigh.

While he was airborne, however, Ouyang Feng opened his eyes wide, looking to all directions. He saw the arrow coming his way, he bent his waist, swept his legs and struck down Guo Jing’s arrows one by one.

Although in a different army unit, Genghis Khan was also aware of Guo Jing’s agreement. He ordered his troops to shoot arrows. Immediately tens of thousands arrows shot out like a swarm of locusts flying toward Ouyang Feng.

Even if he had a thousand hands and ten thousands legs, it was no way Ouyang Feng could knock all the arrows down. He was naked, and being airborne his movement was limited; perhaps very soon he would look like a porcupine. In this dire situation Ouyang Feng let his hands go, he fell down head first to the ground. Hundreds of thousands people shouted with one voice, the noise was earth- shattering.

Amazingly Ouyang Feng flexed his waist midair and threw himself toward a flag inside the city. That time the northwesterly wind was blowing very strong, the flag fluttered straight from west to east. Ouyang Feng stretched out his left hand and grabbed the corner of the flag, tearing it into two pieces. Borrowing the strength of the flag, Ouyang Feng made a somersault, hurling his legs toward the flag pole. Hugging the pole he slid downward and vanished inside the city wall.

Both armies witnessed this marvelous show, they talked about it to each other, momentarily forgot they are in the midst of a battle.

“This can’t be considered sparing his life,” Guo Jing thought, “How can I still have to spare his life next time? Rong’er must be very upset.” Who would have thought that as he turned his head he saw Huang Rong’s eyes were gleaming with smile on her face. Quickly he asked, “Rong’er, what’s wrong? Why are you so happy?”

Huang Rong clapped her hands and laughed, “I present to you a great gift, wonder if you’ll like it or not?” “What gift?” Guo Jing asked.

“The City of Samarkhand,” Huang Rong replied. Guo Jing was dumbstruck.

“The Old Poison has taught me a method to break the city’s defense,” Huang Rong said, “Go and prepare your troops. Tonight you will render a great service.” Then she whispered in Guo Jing’s ear, explaining what to do next. Once he understood, Guo Jing was so happy that he repeatedly cheered and applauded.

That afternoon Guo Jing issued a secret order, assigned his troops to take their tents down and cut them into round umbrella shapes; then to tie leather ropes to this umbrella. He wanted ten thousands of umbrellas to be sewn and ready within an hour.

All the officers and soldiers were puzzled. They thought without tents in this bitter cold weather, the nights were unendurable. But the commander-in-chief had issued an order; they had no alternative but to comply.

Guo Jing also ordered his army to gather the cattle and sheep under the snowy peak. Furthermore he assigned a ten thousand men unit to be ready outside the north gate in four battle formations: ‘tian fu’ [sky high], ‘di zai’ [strong earth], ‘feng yang’ [scattered wind], and ‘yun chui’ [dangling cloud]; ready to assault the enemy. Then he placed another ten thousand men unit on the either sides of the north gate in four battle formations: ‘long fei’ [flying dragon], ‘hu yi’ [winged tiger], ‘niao xiang’ [soaring bird], and ‘she pan’ [coiled snake]. Their main assignment was to drive the enemy into the first unit’s ambush. The third ten thousand men unit was readied on the side to be deployed later. That evening Guo Jing’s troops ate their provisions until everybody was satisfied, then the two ten-thousand men units moved to their appointed position on the north gate. Around the end of the eleventh hour, early the twelfth hour [approximately 9pm] Guo Jing dispatched one of his guards to report to the Great Khan, asking him to dispatch the army to surround the city, for the gates were about to be broken. Genghis Khan was surprised, he was doubtful. He told the guard to go and summon Guo Jing to his Golden Tent. That guard replied, “The Golden Blade Consort [jin dao fu ma] at this very moment has already led his troops to launch an attack. He is waiting for the Great Khan to render assistance.”

Right around that moment a horn sounded from the direction of Guo Jing’s troops; about a thousand soldiers started to butcher the cattle and the sheep, building the sheep ladder on the peak wall. The Beggar Clan disciples with their high level of martial arts skill went up and down lending their hands; very soon dozens of ‘sheep ladders’ were constructed.

Guo Jing shouted his command, and was the first to go up the peak. Ten thousand officers and soldiers followed, with long ropes tied to their waists, slowly climbing up the ladder. They were all under a strict order that was issued earlier not to make any noise at all.

In the dark night dozens of long strings of soldiers crawling and twisting like gigantic dragon slithering up the peak.

The top was actually not very wide, so it was impossible to hold ten thousand men at once. As soon as he had gathered enough people, Guo Jing led the soldiers to tie the umbrella to their waist; then with unsheathed weapons in their hands they were ready to leap into the city. Their target was the south gate.

With a clap of his hands Guo Jing was the first to jump down, followed by several hundreds of the Beggar Clan disciples.

Actually this jumping down from the peak was very dangerous, but the Mongolian soldiers were very brave. Earlier that day they saw Ouyang Feng had jumped from the peak with a pair of trousers as his parachute; they believed their umbrellas were a lot safer than the trousers; moreover, their commander-in-chief had given them the example; therefore, one by one they leaped down courageously. Very soon the sky was full with thousands of blooming parachutes, taking the officers and soldiers slowly down.

Huang Rong was sitting on an ice block on the peak. She saw the first phase of their plan was successfully completed; she could not help but feeling ecstatic. “Whether Genghis Khan can break the city defense or not, it has nothing to do with me. But if Jing Gege listens to what I say, he can seize the opportunity to do great things.”

Once his feet landed on the ground Guo Jing tore the parachute from his waist, brandishing his big saber he fiercely swept the defending troops. By that time there were some defending troops on night watch duty. They saw thousands of enemy troops descending from the sky; they were amazed and scared, they lost their will to fight. Moreover, those who landed first were the Beggar Clan disciples, each one skilled in martial art. In a short moment they were approaching the city gate.

After that the Mongolian army successively landed. Although there were some soldiers who lost their lives because their parachutes failed to open, but in ten soldiers, nine actually made it to the ground safe and sound. Some of them were blown away by the strong wind and landed outside the city gate; some landed separate from their unit, these soldiers were either captured or killed by the enemy. But those who landed successfully were numbered around one or two thousands. Guo Jing ordered half of them to fight the enemy, while the other half moved toward the city gate.

Genghis Khan saw Guo Jing’s troops flew into the city, he was amazed and pleasantly surprised. He ordered all three units of his army to attack concurrently. They saw the south gate was widely open; several hundreds Mongolian soldiers with spears in their hands guarded the gate, letting several thousands of their companions enter the city; and then they immediately joined themselves with Guo Jing’s troops, decimating the enemies.

The hundred-thousand defending troops were in panic; they did not know where the enemy came from. The Mongolians killed and splashed oil everywhere, setting the city on fire. The inferno reached the sky, Khoresm army was in total chaos.

It was almost dawn, the defending troops were scattered everywhere. The Khoresm king, Muhammad, received a report that there was no enemy at the north gate, so he rushed to the north to escape. Unexpectedly to him, Guo Jing’s ten thousand men had already waited at the either sides of the north gate; arrows and spears moved and made a great kill.

Muhammad did not want to prolong the fight. He ordered Wanyan Honglie to command the defending troops, while he took his personal guards trying to save his own life.

Guo Jing’s sole purpose was to find Wanyan Honglie; seeing his golden helmet flashing among the chaotic battle, Guo Jing ordered his troops to hunt him down. The Khoresm army knew they had lost, but their number was greater; they fought desperately, almost to the point of disregarding their own lives. Guo Jing’s troops were smaller, their movement was hindered. From the front came a fast horse reporting that the enemy troops soon would make a break through.

Guo Jing remembered the military strategy book had this saying, “Do not eat enemy’s bait, do not stop retreating troops. Surrounded troops are not necessarily weak, exhausted enemy should not be pursued too far.” He issued an order to change tactic immediately. His signal flag unfolding, the four formations: sky, earth, wind and cloud, dispersed to surround the enemy. By that time the enemy troops remained around the palace was about ten thousand men; although all were warriors, but they realized the imminent defeat and had lost their fighting spirit; they were easily captured by Guo Jing’s troops.

Guo Jing examined the prisoners, but did not see Wanyan Honglie among them. Even though he had achieved victory, but his heart was unavoidably discontented. By daybreak the city defense was completely destroyed. Genghis Khan held a general assembly inside Muhammad’s imperial palace. Guo Jing was in the process of going through his troops, taking care of the dead and comforting the wounded, when he heard the Great Khan’s golden horn sounded. Immediately he rushed toward the royal palace.

By the palace gate he saw a small squad of soldiers; Huang Rong, Lu Youjiao and the other elders were standing among them. Huang Rong clapped her hands and two soldiers stepped forward carrying a big gunnysack. She smiled and said, “Hey, can you guess what’s inside this sack?”

Guo Jing laughed, “This city has all kinds of strange and wonderful things, how can I guess?” he said. “This one is my gift to you, I am sure you will like it,” Huang Rong said.

Suddenly Guo Jing remembered; could it be that she found a good looking woman in the city and gave her to him as a joke? Quickly he shook his head, “I don’t want it,” he said.

Huang Rong laughed, “Are you sure?” she asked. “You can’t change your mind after you see it.”

Immediately she shook the sack and indeed somebody rolled out of it. His hair was disheveled, his face was full of blood; he was wearing a Khoresm army uniform. Guo Jing looked at his face intently, and to his awe, found out that he was the Great Jin’s Prince Zhao, Wanyan Honglie. Guo Jing was ecstatic, “Amazing! Where did you capture him?” he asked.

Huang Rong said, “I saw the defeated and dispersed soldiers were fleeing toward the north gate. A squad of soldiers bearing the Prince Zhao’s banner were heading east with someone wearing a golden helmet leading them. I thought this scoundrel Wanyan Honglie was slyer than that; in no way would he blatantly flaunt the Prince Zhao’s banner in time of defeat. I thought if his banner flew to the east, he must be running to the west; so I took Elder Lu and the others to prepare an ambush in the west. We did indeed capture this scoundrel immediately.”

Guo Jing bowed deeply to her, he said, “Rong’er, you have avenged my dear father for me. I really don’t know how to express my gratitude.”

Huang Rong pursed her lips and smiled, “It was just a coincidence. You have rendered this great service, the Great Khan will generously reward you. Won’t that be great?” she said.

“I don’t want anything,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong stepped to the side and whispered, “Come here.” Guo Jing followed. “You really don’t want anything in the world?” Huang Rong asked.

Guo Jing was taken aback, “All I want is never to be separated from you anymore,” he earnestly said.

Huang Rong smiled. “Today you have rendered this great service. Whatever you ask, I believe the Great Khan won’t get angry at you.”

“Hmm,” Guo Jing still did not understand. Huang Rong continued, “Right this moment if you ask him to appoint you as some high ranking official, he won’t deny it. If you ask him not to appoint you, it will also be difficult for him to deny. Important thing is, you have to make him promise in advance. Whatever you ask, he has to grant it.”

“Right!” Guo Jing said.

Listening to his short reply ‘Right!’ without saying anything else, Huang Rong shook her head; she was mad. “Looks like becoming the Golden Blade Consort is the best thing that ever happened to you, isn’t it?”

Her words made Guo Jing understand, he called out, “Hmm, I understand. You want me to ask the Great Khan to cancel my marriage; but I have to make sure he promises in advance he won’t deny whatever I ask.”

Huang Rong was hurt, “It all depends on you. You probably do want to be the Consort?”

“Rong’er,” Guo Jing said, “Sister Huazheng treats me with nothing but sincerity, but my love to her is a brotherly love. At first I thought I was holding to my gentleman’s agreement, since I did not object to the marriage arrangement a long time ago. But if the Great Khan is willing to nullify the agreement, that would certainly satisfy all parties involved.”

Huang Rong was overjoyed; she cast a sidelong glance to him with the sweetest smile on her face. Guo Jing wanted to stay and talk with her some more, but the horn was sounded for the second time from the palace. He placed his hand on hers and said, “Rong’er, wait for my good news here.” He dragged Wanyan Honglie inside the palace to see the Great Khan.

Genghis Khan was very delighted to see Guo Jing arrived; he left his throne to greet him, and then took his hand to enter the hall together. He ordered Guo Jing to take a stool covered with embroidery work and tell him to sit next to him. Listening to Guo Jing’s report on the capture of Wanyan Honglie he was even happier. Seeing Wanyan Honglie kneel down in front of him Genghis Khan lifted his right foot to tread on Wanyan Honglie’s head. Smiling broadly he said, “That day you came to Mongolia flaunting your military power and prestige, did you ever think that there will come a day like today?”

Wanyan Honglie knew his death was imminent, he raised his head boldly and said, “That time my Great Jin country was rich and powerful. I regret the fact that we did not extinguish your tiny Mongolia early on, rather than living to this day.” Genghis Khan laughed a big laugh, ordering his guard to take Wanyan Honglie out and behead him in front of the palace. Guo Jing remembered his father’s death was finally avenged; his heart was filled with happiness and grief.

Genghis Khan said, “I have promised that whoever breaks the city defense and capture Wanyan Honglie I will give this city’s women and children, with all its gold and silk. Go ahead and receive your rewards.”

Guo Jing shook his head, “My mother and I have enjoyed the Great Khan’s benevolence. We have enough food and clothing. I don’t have any use of slaves or gold and silk.”

“Good,” Genghis Khan said, “That was precisely the true quality of a hero. What then you do want? All you have to do is ask, I will not deny anything.”

Guo Jing left his seat and bowed in front of the Khan. “I do have a favor to ask; Great Khan, please do not get angry,” he said. Genghis Khan laughed, “Just say it,” he said.

Guo Jing was about to talk about the betrothal when suddenly he heard a heart-rending, earth-shaking cry of thousands of people from a distance. The assembled generals leaped up from their seats, unsheathing their weapons. They thought the surrendered Khoresm soldiers and people suddenly staged a rebellion; they were ready to dash out and suppress it. Genghis Khan laughed. “It’s all right! It’s all right!” he said, “This dog city refuses to subdue under the Heaven’s power, had killed many of my officers and soldiers, it even killed my beloved grandson; it has to be cleansed by slaughter. Let us go and take a look.” He left his seat immediately followed by the generals.

They left the palace on horseback heading toward the western part of the city. The nearer they got, the more miserable the cry became. Just outside the city gate they saw hundreds of thousands common people running around wailing loudly, they pushed and rolled and threw themselves down in panic, with Mongolian soldiers on horseback chasing them, killing the people with long sabers.

Earlier the Mongolian soldiers ordered all the inhabitants to go out of the city, nobody was left behind. At the beginning the people thought the Mongolians were going to search for spies among them; who would have thought that after searching for weapons, they also searched for all kinds of valuables; then they took all good looking young women, married or not, tied them together with long ropes. Samarkhand’s residents now realized that they were facing a grave danger. Some people showed resistance, but they were killed immediately with long sabers. Finally several thousands of Mongolian soldiers with loud battle cries charged toward these people, and went on a killing spree with their long sabers. Male or female, young or old, they were randomly chopped down. This massacre was truly with unprecedented brutality; from white or gray haired old men and women, to babies on their mothers’ arms, nobody could escape by luck.

When Genghis Khan and his entourage arrived to watch; more than ten thousands people had already fallen victim to the soldiers’ brutality; flesh and blood splattered to all directions, the Mongolian horses’ iron horseshoes tread on corpses everywhere; going back and forth among the people and kill some more.

Genghis Khan laughed big and called out, “Kill well! Kill well! Let them know my fierceness.”

After watching for a short moment, Guo Jing could not endure patiently, he dashed to the front of Genghis Khan’s horse and called out, “Great Khan, please spare their lives.”

Genghis Khan waved his hand, shouted loudly, “Kill them all, don’t leave anybody standing.”

Guo Jing did not dare to say anything, but then he saw a boy about seven, eight years old, dash out from the crowd and threw himself down at a woman who was just knocked down by a horse, calling out, “Mama!” A Mongolian soldier dashed in and swung his long saber, mother and son were chopped into four parts. The child’s hands were still clutching tightly to his mother.

Guo Jing’s blood boiled; he forgot everything and called out, “Great Khan, you said that this city’s women and children, along with all gold and silk are mine; why did you give your order to massacre them?”

Genghis Khan was startled; he smiled, “You said you didn’t want it.”

“You said that whatever I ask you, you will not deny it, didn’t you?” Guo Jing asked. Genghis Khan nodded, still smiling.

With a loud voice Guo Jing said, “The Great Khan’s words are like a mountain; I am asking you to spare this tens of thousands lives.”

Genghis Khan was greatly astounded, not in his wildest dream would he guess Guo Jing would ask him this; but he had already given his promise, how could he refuse? He was enraged, his eyes blazing with fire looking at Guo Jing. His hand squeezed his saber’s hilt, he roared, “Kid, you really want this?”

All the princes and generals were scared to see Genghis Khan this angry. Genghis Khan was surrounded by brave warriors, each one had fought countless battles, none were weak or had a feeble heart, they faced death straight in the face; but facing Genghis Khan’s anger they could not help but tremble.

Guo Jing had never seen Genghis Khan look at him this way, he was also extremely scared; his body could not stop shivering, but he said, “I am asking the Great Khan to spare these people’s lives.” With a low growling voice Genghis Khan asked, “You won’t regret it?”

Guo Jing remembered Huang Rong told him to ask for cancellation of his betrothal; now he let this good opportunity slipped away. He had lost the Great Khan’s favor forever, which he didn’t mind; but he actually realized his relationship with Huang Rong was just being thrown down the drain. He had seen and heard these hundreds of thousands common people wailing pitifully; how could he see others facing death and do nothing? Therefore, boldly he said, “I won’t regret it.”

Genghis Khan heard his trembling voice, he knew Guo Jing was scared to death, but still he boldly made a request. He was forced to admire Guo Jing’s guts; drawing a long saber he called out, “Withdraw troops!”

His guard blew the horn. Tens of thousands Mongolian cavalry with blood all over their bodies reined their horses and arranged themselves in neat formation.

Since Genghis Khan became the Great Khan, nobody had ever dared to defy his order. This time Guo Jing bravely hampered his order to massacre the city; he was really angry. With a loud shout he threw his long saber to the ground; then sped his horse back to the city.

The other generals cast their angry looks toward Guo Jing; now that the Great Khan was angry who knew who would be unlucky enough to bear the brunt of his anger. They were also discontented, since as Samarkhand’s defense was broken, they were hoping to plunder and kill to their hearts’ content for several days; but now their hopes were shattered.

Guo Jing knew the resentment of others, but he ignored them all, he rode his little red horse slowly to a secluded place. Since the beginning of the war, thousands upon thousands homes had been burnt to the ground, corpses scattered everywhere, the snow covered plain was dyed red with blood. He thought, “War brings wretched disaster; bad as it is now. In order for me to seek vengeance for my father I have commanded troops to kill these many people. In order to rule the world, the Great Khan has killed even more people. But for the officers, soldiers, and the common people, what did they do to deserve the cruelest death; their bones abandoned in the wilderness?”

The more he thought, the more restless his heart became, “I destroyed a city to avenge my father, actually killed these many people. In the end, is it worth it?” He wandered around the wilderness on horseback, going back and forth while painstakingly thinking deeply. It was dark when finally decided to go back to his camp.

As he arrived at the camp’s gate, he saw the Great Khan’s two personal guards were waiting outside. They stepped forward and bowed, reporting, “The Great Khan summons Master Consort. Xiao Ren had been waiting for a long time; asking Master Consort to quickly go.”

Guo Jing thought, “Today I have defied his command; the Great Khan might want to behead me. It has gone thus far, I just have to wait and see what will happen.” Beckoning to his own guard he whispered to his ear, ordering him to tell Lu Youjiao that he is going to the palace. He was anxious, but he had determined, “No matter how angry he is, I won’t take back my request to spare these people’s lives. He is the Great Khan, he can’t go back on his words.”

His heart was full of the idea that the Great Khan would unleash his anger, who would have thought that as he approached the palace gate he actually heard the Great Khan’s merry laughter were heard intermittently from inside the palace. Guo Jing could not help but to be a little bit surprised. He sped up his footstep entering the main hall.

He saw next to the Great Khan sat a man, and next to his foot a young maiden sat leaning on his knee. The man had a ruddy face with white hair, he was none other than the Perpetual Spring [Changchun Zi] Qiu Chuji. As for the young woman; who else but Princess Huazheng?

Guo Jing was delighted, hastily he rushed to meet them. Suddenly Genghis Khan snatched a long halberd from his guard’s hand, turned around and fiercely attacked Guo Jing’s head with the halberd.

Guo Jing was shocked, he leaned sideways to elude. ‘Crack!’ the halberd’s shaft hit his left shoulder and broke into two pieces. Genghis Khan burst into laughter, “Kid, let the bygone be bygone. If I am not looking at Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest] and my daughter’s face, I should have taken your head away today.”

Princess Huazheng sprang up, she called out, “Father, you must be bullying my Brother Guo Jing while I am not here.” Genghis Khan tossed the broken halberd to the floor. He laughed, “Who said that?”

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes, how could you deny it?” Huazheng said, “For that reason my heart was troubled, I came with Qiu Daozhang to take a look.”

Genghis Khan laughed, he pulled his daughter with one hand, and Guo Jing with the other; he said, “Let’s not bicker, just sit nicely, listen while Qiu Daozhang recites his poem.”

At the battle of Misty Rain Tavern [‘yan yu lou’ – ‘lou’ means upper level of buildings with more than one floor] Qiu Chuji saw with his own eyes that Zhou Botong was alive and well; he also realized that Tan Chuduan was killed by Ouyang Feng. Along with Ma Yu and the others they went to apologize to Huang Yaoshi. Later on Quanzhen Six Masters came across Ke Zhen’e who told them everything, which made everybody sigh deeply. Qiu Chuji regretted deeply that he had been careless with his disciple, he taught Yang Kang martial arts, but did not take him out of the palace. The youngster was spoiled in riches and honor, and finally met his tragic end. One day he received Genghis Khan’s and Guo Jing’s letter; he thought Mongolia was getting stronger and might swallow up China. It was exceptional that Genghis Khan should invite someone to come over. He thought he might want to seize the opportunity to give the Khan some advice, trying to open up his heart to the truth, so if he might prevent the slaughter of countless people all over the world, that would be his greatest contribution to mankind. Also, he missed seeing Guo Jing; therefore, braving the cold he took more than a dozen of his disciples to the west.

Qiu Chuji saw Guo Jing had been through wind and snow, his skin was darker, but his body actually looked stronger and healthier; Qiu Chuji was delighted. Before Guo Jing arrived he had been discussing what he had seen and heard with the Great Khan. He said that he experienced the harshness of the weather first hand, so he composed several poems. Stroking his beard he started to recite: “For ten years the people had dreaded the calamity of war, among millions not even one or two could survive. The past year met a good fortune receiving merciful imperial order, this spring braving the cold making the journey. Taming the three-thousand ‘li’ of northern mountain range, roaming two-hundred eastern hill provinces. Exhausted and anxious, gasping for the last breath of life; consumed by the people’s suffering.”

An officer with understanding of Chinese literature called Yelu Chucai translated the poem into Mongolian. Genghis Khan listened; he nodded his head but did not say anything.

To Guo Jing Qiu Chuji said, “That year when your seven masters and I were having a martial art contest at the Drunken Immortal Tavern, your Second Master took a half-finished poem from my pocket. This time I am traveling to the west without being able to see your seven masters again; but finally I have finished this poem.” He started reciting immediately, “ ‘Since the ancient time, the moon of ‘zhong-qiu’ [mid-autumn festival] has always been the brightest; the cool breeze of the night is so clear. The day the shooting star is brighter than the Milky Way, the dragons of the four seas leaped from the water.’ These first four lines were the ones your Second Master had read; I have just finished the next four, he had not seen them yet. ‘The song from the Wu and Yue kingdoms tower was heard extensively, the military barrack of Qin kingdom was full with songs, food and wine. I arrived before the emperor upstream of the river, desiring to stop the spears, wishing for peace and security.’”

Remembering The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan, Guo Jing’s eyes were brimming in tears.

Genghis Khan said, “During the journey to the west, the Priest must have seen my Mongolia’s military prowess. I wonder if you have composed a poem about it?”

Qiu Chuji answered, “Along the way I have seen the Great Khan’s power in destroying the cities and ransacking the earth. It made a deep impression in my heart, gave me inspiration to write two stanzas. The first one is, ‘The Heaven has sent a messenger down to the earth, why not try to save millions of suffering souls? These millions of souls day and night put to death by dismemberment, drinking the wrath, swallowing their weeping without uttering a word. They looked up and cried to the Heaven, but the Heaven did not answer; it was a mere trivial thing unworthy of Heaven’s attention. Peace among thousands of chaos, without religion building refined souls.’”

Yelu Chuchai thought Genghis Khan would not be happy listening to this, so he hesitated and did not translate immediately. Qiu Chuji ignored him, he continued, “My second poem is this, ‘Alas, the world is opened wide, on it live millions of living beings. Cruelty and wickedness battle each other incessantly, carrying the human suffering to its utmost. The Emperor of Heaven, the Queen of the earth, along with all deities, witnessing death; why not help? The messenger is sad but helpless, day and night full of heartache in vain’” [Translator’s note: all these poems consist of seven-character sub-sentences]

These two poems although not really deep, but the essence of lamenting the fate of mankind was so obvious. Earlier that day Guo Jing had witnessed first hand the massacre of the people in that city, he was even more somber.

“The Priest’s poems must be good, what did they say? Quick, translate them for me,” Genghis Khan said.

Yelu Chuchai thought, “I have advised the Great Khan not to kill too many innocent civilians, but he didn’t want to listen. Luckily this Priest has a deep merciful feeling and composed these beautiful poems. I hope he can persuade the Great Khan.” He translated the poem immediately.

Listening to the poems, Genghis Khan was dissatisfied, he turned to Qiu Chuji and said, “I heard there is a technique to reach immortality, to never get old, in China. I hope the Priest would teach me that.”

“There is no such thing as reaching immortality, to never get old,” Qiu Chuji replied, “But there is indeed a Taoist method of circulating the breathing that will result in preventing illness and prolong life.”

“May I ask what the most important thing in that breathing exercise is?” Genghis Khan asked. “The way of Heaven knows no favorite, always recognizes good man,” Qiu Chuji answered. “Which one would you call good?” Genghis Khan asked.

“A saint’s heart is undivided, his heart is for the common people,” Qiu Chuji said.

Genghis Khan was silent. Qiu Chuji continued, “There is a scripture in China, it is called the ‘Dao De Jing’ [Holy Scripture of Virtue] which we, Taoists view as our treasure. The ‘the way of Heaven knows’ and ‘a saint’s heart’ were taken from that book. There is another saying in that book, ‘Soldiers and weapons are inauspicious devices, not the tool of person with noble character. The tool will be used against his own will, not to gain fame or fortune from it. But woe is the man who loves to murder. Those who love to kill will not be able to realize his wish under the sky.” When Qiu Chuji was traveling to the west, he saw the savageness of the war disaster; his heart was filled with sorrow. He took advantage of Genghis Khan asking him the secret of long life to repeatedly pleading for common people’s lives.

Genghis Khan was getting old, his strength waned, he wanted to learn the technique of immortality; he was very delighted to see Qiu Chuji arrive, thinking that very soon he would learn the technique to defy death and the method to prolong his life. Who would have thought that instead he was advised not to resort of military power and not to kill too much? This conversation did not suit his taste. Therefore, after talking a little bit more he turned to Guo Jing and said, “Go and accompany the Priest to take a rest.”

[Author’s note:

1. Khoresm is a great Islamic country, located on the southern part of Soviet Union, near Afghanistan and Iran. Samarkhand is located in modern day Soviet Union’s Uzbekistan Republic. According to the ‘yuan shi’ [the history of Yuan dynasty], Genghis Khan attacked Khoresm during the year of ‘yu long jie chi’ [jade dragon, scarlet hero], using petroleum to burn the city down and break their defense.

2. According to historical records, Qiu Chuji and Genghis Khan exchanged correspondence three times before finally he took eighteen of his disciples traveling through the snowy Kunlun Mountains. His disciple, Li Zhicang compiled a book called ‘chang chun zhen ren xi you ji’ [Changchun (perpetual spring) Sage’s journey to the west], recording their experience en route. This book is still highly esteemed by the scholars of today.]

End of Chapter 37. 

Chapter 38 – Secret Order in Embroidered Pouch

Guo Jing accompanied Qiu Chuji and his eighteen disciples, among them were Li Zhichang, Yin Zhiping, Xia Zhicheng, Yu Zhike, Zhang Zhizsu, Wang Zhiming, and Song Defang. When they went out of the palace, they saw Huang Rong and the three elders, Lu, Jian, and Liang, as well as about a thousand Beggar Clan disciples all on horseback, waiting outside the palace.

As soon as she saw Guo Jing leave the palace, Huang Rong slapped her horse to move forward, smiling she asked “Is everything all right?”

Guo Jing smiled, “My luck is not bad; Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest] arrived just in time, changing the Great Khan’s mood to the better,” he said.

Huang Rong paid her respects to Qiu Chuji, then she asked Guo Jing again, “I was afraid the Great Khan would kill you in his wrath, I took everybody here ready to rescue you. What did the Great Khan say? Did he agree to cancel your betrothal?”

Guo Jing hesitated for half a day before replying, “I did not ask.” “Why?” Huang Rong was startled.

“Rong’er, please don’t get angry,” Guo Jing said, “It was because …” Right then Princess Huazheng rushed out of the palace, loudly called out, “Guo Jing Gege [big brother – a term of endearment].”

As soon as she saw her, Huang Rong’s face changed immediately. She quickly mounted her horse and galloped away. Guo Jing was about to open his mouth to explain, when Huazheng pulled his hand and said, “Weren’t you surprised I came here? Are you happy to see me?” Guo Jing nodded, he turned his head to see Huang Rong, but she had already disappeared. Huazheng only had her eyes to Guo Jing, she did not notice Huang Rong at all; she held his hand, laughing, giggling and telling him how much she missed him.

Guo Jing secretly groaned, “Rong’er must think it was because I saw Huazheng that I did not ask the Great Khan to cancel my betrothal.” He was silent and did not hear what Huazheng was saying.

A moment later Huazheng realized Guo Jing was in a daze, she was offended, “What’s the matter with you? I came from far away just to see you and you do not pay any attention to me?”

“Meizi [younger sister – term of endearment],” Guo Jing said, “I have a very important matter I need to take care of, we will talk when I come back.” Without waiting for her answer he assigned his personal guard to take care of Qiu Chuji, then hurriedly he went back to his camp, looking for Huang Rong.

His guard said, “Miss Huang came back to take the painting, then left toward the eastern gate.” Guo Jing was startled, “What painting?” he asked.

“The painting Master Consort frequently looked at,” his guard replied.

Now Guo Jing really freaked out. “She took away this picture that means she really severed her relationship with me. No matter what, I have to go south to look for her.” Hurriedly he wrote a letter to Qiu Chuji, then mounting his little red horse he went out of town to pursue.

That little red horse was very fast; but Guo Jing was afraid he might not see Huang Rong anymore, so he kept urging the horse to run even faster. In a short moment they had covered more than ten ‘li’s, already at the outskirt of the city; soldiers and horses’ remains scattered everywhere. Another dozen or so ‘li’s later, all he saw was a vast open prairie covered with white snow. To his delight, there were horse’s tracks on the snow heading east.

“The little red horse is so swift that no other horse in this world is its match. A little more time and I should be able to catch Rong’er,” he thought, “I will take mother, then the three of us will go south at once. I don’t care if Huazheng Meizi would blame me.”

Another dozen of ‘li’s the track suddenly turned north, and there were human footprints beside the horse’s track. The footprints were really peculiar, since the distance between two feet was about four feet; also, the size of the feet were big, but sank into the snow only lightly, only a few inches deep. Guo Jing was startled, “This person’s lightness kungfu is excellent.” Immediately he recalled something, “There is no one other than Ouyang Feng who has this kind of ability. Could it be that he is pursuing Rong’er?” Thinking of this, even though the cold wind was blowing, he could not help but sweat all over. The little red horse was truly smart, somehow it knew its master was in distress; so without Guo Jing pulling the rein it immediately ran following the tracks.

Guo Jing saw the footprints were always right by the horse’s track. Several ‘li’s later both the track and the footprint suddenly turned west, and then turned south; turning and winding around, there was not a single section that was straight. Guo Jing thought, “Rong’er must have found out Ouyang Feng was chasing her, so she tried to shake him off. But the track is imprinted clearly on the snow, Old Poison won’t have any difficulty following her.”

Another dozen of ‘li’s or so, the footprint and the horse track intermingled, they were overlapping another set of footprint and horse track altogether. Guo Jing dismounted the horse to look closer. He was able to tell which set was made earlier and which set was made later. Looking both sets of tracks stretched out far on the snow he suddenly realized something, “Rong’er must have used her father’s ‘qi men zhi shu’ [strange/wonderful/mysterious gate technique]; deliberately winding around to the east and circling to the west to confuse Ouyang Feng. Once he lost her track, she came back to her original route.”

He stood back up, his heart was happy and anxious at the same time; happy because he knew most probably Ouyang Feng would not be able to overtake Huang Rong, anxious because of the confusing horse’s track he also lost his trail. Standing on the snow he thought, “Rong’er went in circle, but eventually she must be heading east. I have to pursue to the east then.” Leaping to his horseback, he looked to the sky to find his bearing then he rode to the east.

After speeding for quite some times, the horse’s track indeed reappeared. He saw in the distance, where the blue sky met the snowy plain, a shadow of a person. Guo Jing urged his horse to run even faster and saw that the person was indeed Ouyang Feng. By now Ouyang Feng had also recognized Guo Jing, he called out, “Come, quick! Miss Huang has fallen into the quicksand.” Guo Jing was shocked, his legs squeezed his horse, and the little red horse shot like an arrow forward.

When he was still about a dozen ‘zhang’s away from where Ouyang Feng was standing, suddenly he felt his horse’s hoofs no longer tread on a solid ground, as if under the white snow was some kind of marsh. The little red horse also felt it was stepping on a softer ground, hurriedly it pulled its leg and sped forward. Guo Jing brought the horse in a big circle and came back, only to see Ouyang Feng continuously running around a small tree.

“Is he doing some kind of black magic?” Guo Jing wondered. He pulled his rein to stop the horse because he wanted to ask a question; who would have thought that his little red horse did not want to stop, but sped forward and circled back. Guo Jing realized immediately, “Turned out underneath the snow is a soft-mud marsh; we will sink down as soon as I stop.” But then his blood froze, “Is it possible that Rong’er fell into this marsh?”

“Where is Miss Huang?” he called out to Ouyang Feng. Ouyang Feng did not stop running, he called out, “I followed her horse’s track to this place, then suddenly it disappeared. Look!” While speaking he pointed his finger toward the small tree.

Guo Jing sped past the tree on the horseback, he saw a bright yellow ring on the tree branch. He made the little red horse run close to the tree, stretched out his hand and snatched that ring. It was the golden band Huang Rong wore on her hair. His heart almost jumped out through his throat.

He turned his horse’s head toward the east. Several ‘li’s later he saw something glittering on the snow ahead. Bending his body, hanging from the horseback he stretched his arm out and scooped that thing. It was the flower-patterned gold inlaid pearl head ornament that Huang Rong often wore. Guo Jing was very anxious, “Rong’er, Rong’er, where are you?” he shouted at the top of his lungs. He looked around as far as his eyes could see, but there was not a single movement on the vast and boundless white plain.

He went several ‘li’s further, toward his left he saw a black sable fur coat lying on the snowy ground. It was his own coat that he gave to Huang Rong when they first met at Zhangjiakou [Kalgan?]. He made the little red horse circle around the coat, while shouting loudly, “Rong’er!” His voice traveled far on the open snowy plain. There was no hill or mountain around, therefore, there was no echo answering his call. Guo Jing was extremely anxious, he wanted to cry but no sound was coming out from his throat.

A moment later Ouyang Feng arrived, “Let me rest on your horseback, then we will seek Miss Huang together,” he said.

Guo Jing was indignant, “If you did not chase her, how could she fall into this marsh?” he scolded. Squeezing his legs he made his little red horse leap forward.

Ouyang Feng was angry, he leaped forward, and in three jumps he had already behind the horse, stretching his hand to grab the horse’s tail.

Guo Jing did not expect him to come this quick, with a ‘Divine Dragon Swings Its Tail’ his right palm shot backward, crashing Ouyang Feng’s palm, both people were using their full strength. Guo Jing was blown by Ouyang Feng’s palm strength, his body flew from his saddle. Fortunately his red horse dashed forward; he stretched his left hand, grabbing the horse’s buttocks, and swinging his body forward he was back on his saddle in no time.

Ouyang Feng, on the other hand, was pushed two steps backwards. Because of Guo Jing’s palm strength he landed heavily; his left leg unexpectedly fell deeply into the mud, straight to his knee. Ouyang Feng was totally shocked; he knew on this kind of quicksand, as soon as he exerted his strength and tried to jump out, his right foot would also fall into the mud. Once both legs were in, it did not matter if his skill was as high as the sky, he would have a very difficult time pulling his own body out of the mud. In desperation he laid his body horizontally on the ground, then rolled around while at the same time kicked his right leg to the air. Using ‘lian huan yuan yang tui’ [chain mandarin duck’s leg] he borrowed the strength from his right kick to lift his left foot. Mud splashed everywhere, but his legs were free.

He turned over and stood up, only to hear Guo Jing’s loud calls, “Rong’er! Rong’er!” The man on the horse had left him for more than a ‘li’. He saw the little red horse was running steadily; apparently they were already out of the marsh area. Ouyang Feng decided to pursue, but the further he ran, the more he felt the ground underneath his feet was getting softer; as if he was at the edge of the marsh and now he had treaded into the center of it.

Three times had Ouyang Feng fallen under Guo Jing’s hands; the last time he was forced to be naked in front of hundreds of thousands people. It was an extremely dangerous situation; other people might admire his martial art skill, but he actually thought that was his greatest disgrace. This time he met Guo Jing again, alone. Good or bad he simply had to seek revenge. Even though the terrain was dangerous, he simply could not let this good opportunity pass. Much less Huang Rong’s life or death was still unknown; he could not give up in light of this, no way; therefore, in his anger he decided to pursue Guo Jing.

Displaying his excellent lightness kungfu; in just several ‘li’s he had reached the speed of a fast horse. Guo Jing heard footsteps on the snow behind him; he turned his head quickly only to see Ouyang Feng was only several ‘zhang’s behind his horse’s tail. He was startled, hastily urged his horse to run faster. In just a short moment they have covered more than a dozen ‘li’s.

Guo Jing did stop calling, “Rong’er!” but he saw the sky was getting darker; Huang Rong’s fate was increasingly uncertain. His voice was hoarse from shouting, his occasional choke turned into sobs. The little red horse understood the danger they were on from the start, as it felt softer ground underneath, it ran even faster; eventually its four hooves moved so fast as if they were flying above the snow.

‘Han xue bao ma’ [precious horse with blood-like sweats] was a rare animal capable of running very fast; but Ouyang Feng’s lightness kungfu was not inferior. Unfortunately he was getting tired, after running for a long time his breathing was getting heavier, his legs’ strength diminished, his footsteps gradually slowing down. Little red horse was also sweating profusely; beads of red sweats trickled down from its body, splashing to the white snow below, next to its hoof tracks, like cherry blossom in full bloom.

By the time the sky was completely dark the little red horse had completely left the marsh; early on Ouyang Feng had disappeared without a trace. Guo Jing thought, “The horse Rong’er was riding did not have this kind of divine speed; it wouldn’t run for half a li into the marsh without falling into the mud below. Even if I have to lose my life I must try to rescue her.” He very well realized that Huang Rong had been missing for a very long time; if she did fall into the marsh, even if he could pull her out, he would not be able to bring her back to life. So his motivation was really for his own peace of mind.

Guo Jing dismounted his horse to give it a rest; caressing his horse’s back he said, “Little horse, oh little horse, today I am asking you not to be afraid of exhaustion. Let’s take a short rest and then we’ll go again.” Guo Jing leaped back to his saddle and pulled the rein to turn the horse’ head. The little red horse was afraid to tread back into the marsh, but Guo Jing kept urging it to go. Finally with a loud neigh the horse’s four hooves splashed back into the marsh. The horse knew their destination was still far away, so it ran with all its might, faster and faster into the marsh.

Suddenly they heard Ouyang Feng’s desperate cry, “Help! Help!” Guo Jing sped his horse up. Under the glimmering reflection of the white snow he saw Ouyang Feng had fallen into the mud. His hands were high in the air, flailing chaotically. The mud was slowly rising, it already reached his chest. As soon as it reached his mouth and nose, he would certainly be suffocated to death.

Guo Jing could see his desperate situation; he recalled Huang Rong might face similar danger. His blood boiled inside his chest; he almost dismounted his horse and fell into the same trap; but decided against doing so at the last minute.

“Quick, help me!” Ouyang Feng cried out.

Guo Jing gritted his teeth and said, “You killed my benevolent masters, you also killed Miss Huang; do you still want me to save you? Dream on!”

With a stern voice Ouyang Feng replied, “We had made an agreement, you have to spare my life three times. This is the third time. Are you saying you don’t give a thought to the good faith?”

With tears in his eyes Guo Jing said, “Miss Huang is no longer alive, what use is our agreement?”

Ouyang Feng shouted curse and abusive words, but Guo Jing simply ignored him; he rode his horse away. Only a dozen ‘zhang’s later he heard Ouyang Feng’s pitiful cry. Guo Jing could not bear it anymore. He heaved a sigh and turned his horse around. The mud had already reached Ouyang Feng’s neck. “I am willing to save you, but if both of us ride on this horse, we will sink into the mud together,” he said.

“Use a rope to tow me,” Ouyang Feng suggested. Guo Jing did not carry any rope, but he remembered his long robe. Grabbing one end, he let his horse ran close to Ouyang Feng. Ouyang Feng held out his hand and grabbed the other end. Guo Jing squeezed his legs and gave a loud shout. The little red horse furiously charged forward and with a loud splashing sound Ouyang Feng was pulled out of the mire and dragged along on the snowy ground.

If they were heading east, very soon they were going to leave the marsh area; but Guo Jing was very anxious over Huang Rong, how would he be willing to give up searching for her? Therefore, they were galloping to the west. Ouyang Feng was still holding on to the robe, he laid down facing up, being dragged rapidly on the snow. He used this opportunity to catch his breath.

The little red horse ran very fast, before daybreak they had crossed the marsh. Guo Jing saw horse’s track on the snow; it was Huang Rong’s horse entering the marsh area. The track was still there, but what about Huang Rong? Guo Jing dismounted his horse, stood on the snow, lost in thought.

In his grief he had completely forgotten his archenemy; he stood with his left hand holding the rein, and his right hand holding the fur coat, his eyes gazing into the distance, his heart was shaken, beating rapidly.

Suddenly he felt a light touch on his shoulder. He turned around in shock, only to see Ouyang Feng’s palm was touching his ‘tao dao’ [pottery way] acupoint. When Ouyang Feng fell into Guo Jing’s trap and he came out from the sand, Guo Jing had sealed his ‘tao dao’ acupoint. This time Ouyang Feng managed to do the same to Guo Jing, it was a pay back time; Ouyang Feng could not help but laugh merrily.

Guo Jing was overwhelmed with grief, he had no regard of his life anymore; “If you want to kill me then just kill me; we don’t have any agreement that you should spare my life anyway,” he wryly said.

Ouyang Feng was taken aback; he had thought of torturing Guo Jing to disgrace him before finally taking his life. Who would have thought that Guo Jing did not expect to live? Ouyang Feng thought, “This dumb kid loves that little girl very much; if I kill him, then I am helping him fulfilling his desire to die together in the name of love.” He changed his mind and thought, “That little girl is already buried beneath this snow; he becomes my only hope of the explanation of the manual.” Grabbing Guo Jing’s arm he lifted him up and leaped to the horseback. They rode toward a valley in the south.

About the sixth hour [between 9 – 11 am] he saw a village by the roadside. Ouyang Feng steered the horse to enter the village, but everywhere he looked there were corpses scattered around the village. Because the weather was cold, the corpses were preserved; they looked exactly like the day they were mutilated and killed by the passing Mongolian army. Ouyang Feng called out several times, but nobody answered; looked like everybody in that village had died. Instead, he heard cattle mooing and sheep bleating. Ouyang Feng was delighted. He took Guo Jing to a stone house and said, “You are my prisoner now. I won’t kill you. If you can defeat me, you are free to go.” Having said that he took a sheep, butchered it, and boiled it in the kitchen.

The more Guo Jing saw his smug expression, the more he hated Ouyang Feng. Ouyang Feng threw a mutton leg to him and said, “I’ll wait until your stomach is full, then we’ll fight.”

Guo Jing was angry, “You want to fight then fight. Why wait for the full stomach?” His body flew, his palm hacked down. Ouyang Feng raised his hand to block then sent out a fist to counterattack.

Very soon they were fighting inside the stone house, among upturned table and broken chairs. About thirty stances later Guo Jing had to admit his inferiority; he was half a step in front of Ouyang Feng when Ouyang Feng’s right palm swung onto his side. It was very difficult for Guo Jing to fend off, all he could do was to wait for his death. Unexpectedly Ouyang Feng did not exert any strength; he laughed and said, “It’s enough for today. You go ahead and train martial art from the manual; tomorrow we’ll fight again.”

“Bah!” Guo Jing spat; he sat on an overturned chair, picked the mutton leg up and started to eat. He thought, “He wanted to see me using the martial art from the manual, so that he might observe and steal it. I won’t be fooled. If he wants to kill me, let him kill … Hmm, his swing just now, how would I block it?”

Thinking about all kinds of fist techniques and palm methods in the manual, he could not find a single move capable of blocking Ouyang Feng’s attack. He did remember, however, that there was a technique in the manual called ‘fei xu jin’ [flying cotton strength], which would allow him to strengthen his back and render Ouyang Feng’s attack useless.

“I’d better train internal strength; even if he wants to see it, he can’t,” Guo Jing thought. Immediately he ate the mutton leg clean then sat cross-legged on the ground; he recited the manual in his heart then started practicing according to the manual. Since mastering the ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ [changing muscle forging bone technique], his foundation was getting stronger; moreover, with what Reverend Yideng had taught him the Manual became like a second nature to him. This ‘fei xu jin’ for instance, in less than four hours he had learned how to use it.

With the corner of his eye he looked at Ouyang Feng, who was also sitting quietly, meditating. “Watch out!” Guo Jing called out. Without standing up his palm hacked down on the enemy.

Ouyang Feng parried the attack while sending out a counterattack. He wanted to repeat his earlier stance toward Guo Jing’s side. But to his surprise his palm slid down Guo Jing’s back, slanting to one side; because of his own strength he was slightly propelled forward. Taking that opportunity Guo Jing’s left palm shot toward his neck.

Ouyang Feng was startled and pleased at the same time; he continued moving forward and thus had evaded the attack. He turned around and called out, “Good move! Was it from the Manual? What is it called?”

“Sha cha yi tui, ai mo qin er,” Guo Jing said.

Ouyang Feng was startled, but then he remembered the weird sentences from the manual. He thought, “This dumb kid has a profound strength, but he is as hardheaded as a bull. I have to trick him since brute force will be useless.” Changing his tactic he fought Guo Jing carefully.

Two people fought without ceasing. As soon as Guo Jing lost they would stop, then Guo Jing would train himself in new stances. Guo Jing slept soundly during the nights, but Ouyang Feng slept with trepidation; he was afraid Guo Jing might attack him in the middle of the night, or that he would try to escape in the dark.

They lived like that in the stone house for over a month, and had eaten almost half of the cattle and sheep in the village. Within this one month Guo Jing was forced to train his martial art, while Ouyang Feng tried hard to steal it. What Ouyang Feng had learned was already profound, but when he verified what he saw at Guo Jing, he realized there were many discrepancies; it was very difficult from him to link from one sentence to the next. The more he pondered, the more he did not understand; and he could not get anything from Guo Jing. In the meantime, within this month Guo Jing’s martial art had unexpectedly advanced by leaps and bounds.

Ouyang Feng could not help but secretly anxious, “If we continue like this, before I understand the essence of the manual, I might not be this dumb kid’s match.”

The first several days Guo Jing was filled with hatred; after every fight he would be more determined than ever to score a victory, he wanted to master a fierce martial art to kill his enemy. However, he soon learned that this matter was extremely difficult. He was not discouraged nonetheless; his anger had decreased somewhat, but his firm resolution had actually increased.

One day he picked a steel sword from among the corpses lying around in the village; then trained hard on swordsmanship to fight Ouyang Feng’s wooden staff.

Ouyang Feng’s original snake staff fell and was lost in the ocean when he was fighting Hong Qigong on the boat. Afterwards he made another cast steel staff complete with new pair of strange snake; but it was also lost when he was trapped inside the ice block, destroyed by Lu Youjiao. Right now he was using an ordinary wooden staff, without any assistance from his strange snakes; but his staff technique was still out-of-this-world, with infinite variations. Several times the staff shook the sword in Guo Jing’s hand and made it fly. If there were snakes on his staff, definitely Guo Jing would not be able to resist at all.

In the meantime they heard Genghis Khan’s army returning to the east; the people and the horses were marching noisily, the noise did not stop for several days. But two people were engrossed in fighting each other violently, they did not pay the slightest attention to this. One evening the noise simply stopped, the army had all gone and nothing was heard except the quietness of the night.

Guo Jing raised his sword straight up, thinking, “Although I can’t win over you tonight, your wooden staff won’t shake my sword in any way.” He was anxious to try the new stance he had just learned, but he waited calmly for the opponent to attack first. Suddenly from outside the house somebody was shouting loudly, “Traitor! Where are you running to?” Guo Jing was absolutely certain it was the Old Urchin Zhou Botong’s voice.

Ouyang Feng and Guo Jing looked at each other in bewilderment, they both thought, “Why did he go thousands of miles to the west?” They wanted to say something, but heard footsteps came approaching; then two people, one after another, rushed toward the stone house. There were numerous other buildings in the village, but apparently they saw that firelight came from this house. Ouyang Feng waved his left hand and with his internal strength extinguished the fire. By that time the front door was shoved open, somebody rushed in, with somebody else hot on his heels; the latter one was indeed Zhou Botong. Both men’s footsteps were extraordinarily light and nimble; the man in the front’s martial art certainly not below Zhou Botong’s.

Ouyang Feng marveled greatly, “This man surprisingly able to escape the Old Urchin’s hand. His skill is very rare among the experts of this generation. If it were Huang Yaoshi or Hong Qigong, the Old Poison won’t be so surprised.” Because of this thought he refrained from making any move.

They heard the man in the front jump vertically up and sat on the beam. Zhou Botong laughed, “The Old Urchin’s favorite game is the hide-and-seek; I won’t let you slip away anymore.” In the darkness they heard him closing down the front door, and placed a nearby big rock behind it. He called out, “Stinky thief, where are you?” At the same time he groped around back and forth to find him.

Guo Jing was thinking of making some noise to tell him the enemy was on the beam, when suddenly Zhou Botong leaped high while laughing loudly, grabbing that man on the beam. Turned out he was aware from the start that his enemy was on the beam. He was deliberately groping around to the east and to the west to throw him off guard, then suddenly launched a sudden attack.

The man on the beam was not weak either; without waiting for Zhou’s fingers to touch him he somersaulted and crouched by the north wall. Even though his mouth was babbling nonsense, but Zhou Botong was actually very wary of this man. He stopped to listen to his exact location; did not dare to act rashly. In the quietness of the night he heard three distinct breathings. He had known from the start that this house must be occupied, since he saw the fire was extinguished. But since they did not make any sound, he thought they must be frightened; thereupon he called out, “Master of the house please don’t be afraid, I am here to capture this little thief. Once I get him I will go out immediately.”

He knew ordinary people’s breathing was rough and heavy, while those with strong internal energy would breathe slowly and long, light and deep; with just a little attention they were very easy to distinguish. But when he cocked his ears to listen, the people toward his north, east and west were all breathing low and slowly.

Zhou Botong was greatly surprised, “Traitor,” he called out, “You have prepared an ambush here!”

Guo Jing wanted to open his mouth to greet him, but changed his mind at the last minute; he thought, “Ouyang Feng is lurking on the side, the man Zhou Dage [Big Brother Zhou] is chasing is another powerful enemy. I’d better stay quiet and wait for a good opportunity to help him.”

Zhou Botong moved step by step toward the front door while mumbling, “Looked like before the Old Urchin can capture the enemy, he would be captured by the enemy.” He had made a decision to dash out the door if the situation was unfavorable. Right at that moment came a rumbling noise from a distance; hoof beats sounded like an evening tide came crashing the shore. It looked like a strong army with multitude of horses had arrived to kill.

Zhou Botong called out, “You have more and more helpers coming, the Old Urchin doesn’t want to play anymore.” While saying that he picked the rock stopping the door as if he was about to open the door and leave; but then suddenly he hurled the rock toward the man he chased. The rock was not light; Ouyang Feng placed that rock behind the door every night, so that if Guo Jing wanted to sneak out he would find out even when he was sleeping.

Ouyang Feng heard the wind carried a lot of strength in it, he thought that when the Old Urchin threw the stone, his right flank must have been defenseless; if he attacked him first, not only he would have one less enemy for the present time, but also during the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua he would have one less powerful contestant. Having this intention he bent his knee, slightly squatting, pushed both hands together to launch a ‘Toad Stance’ attack.

He was squatting on the west, therefore, his attack was toward the east, carrying a very strong energy. Guo Jing had fought him for dozens of days, he knew by heart Ouyang Feng’s every action and every movement even though the room was pitch black. As soon as he heard the gust of wind, he knew Ouyang Feng was attacking Zhou Botong. Guo Jing stepped forward and launched the ‘Proud Dragon Repents’ to meet Ouyang Feng’s ‘Toad Stance’ head-on.

In the meantime the man who was standing on the north also heard the big rock was flying his way; he bent his knees to get a stronger stand, and push both hands forward, creating a strong force striking the big rock.

Four people from four directions sending out four forces; even though they did not release their energy at exactly the same time, but the forces were actually not inferior one to another. The big rock was struck by forces from east, south, west and north; it fell on the center of the room. ‘Crash!’ with a loud noise it broke the table to smithereens.

The sound was actually very loud; which Zhou Botong thought amusing. He could not restrain from bursting into loud laughter. But his laughter was drowned by the sound of thousands of cavalry soldiers entering the village. They could hear the warhorses neighing, the weapons clashing, and the soldiers shouting their battle cry.

Guo Jing listened to the officers’ commands, and he found out they were the defeated army of Khoresm entering the village, perhaps trying to hold their ground in the village; but it sounded like the Mongolian army had pursued them. He heard the hoof beats, the sound of battle flag fluttered in the wind, the loud battle cry, as well as flying arrows near and far. It sounded like the armies were engaged in a close hand-to-hand combat. The four people in the house did not know for certain how many soldiers were fighting outside. Suddenly someone shoved the door open and came in. Zhou Botong grabbed that person and flung him back outside; then he lifted the rock and placed it back behind the door. As Ouyang Feng’s attack failed, he thought that he had been discovered anyway, so he called out, “Old Urchin, do you know who I am?”

Zhou Botong indistinctly heard someone speaking, but because of the noise he could not distinguish who the speaker was. He raised his left hand to guard against an attack while stretching his right hand to grab. Ouyang Feng easily neutralized this grab with his right hand, while slapping with the back of his left hand. Zhou Botong parried this attack, he was startled, “The Old Poison! You are here?” he called out. He swayed his body slightly, leaning to the left. At that very moment the man on the north took the opportunity to attack Zhou Botong’s back.

Zhou Botong’s right hand engaged Ouyang Feng, while his left fist parried the attack to his back. He was thinking of testing the mutual hands combat that he created on the Peach Blossom Island. Until that day Zhou Botong had not tested his special skill against two masters; so even though he was in danger, he could not let this good opportunity to pass. But suddenly Guo Jing from the east threw himself into the fight; his right hand parried Zhou Botong’s fist, while his left hand engaged that person’s attack.

Three people simultaneously called out in alarm; Zhou Botong shouted, “Guo Xiongdi [Brother Guo],” that person shouted, “Guo Jing,” and Guo Jing himself cried out, “Qiu Qianren.”

Zhou Botong was scared by the snakes at the martial art contest at the ‘yan yu lou’ [Misty Rain Tavern]; he saw no way to escape, so he laid down on top of the tavern’s roof, using layers upon layers of split-bamboo sheets to cover up his body. Because his ‘armor’ was so thick no arrow could harm him, Ouyang Feng’s vipers were also helpless to climb to the roof. When the morning fog was gone, the snakes, as well as the soldiers were also gone; so was everybody else, he did not know where they went. He was bored to death, so he just wandered around everywhere.

A few months later a Beggar Clan disciple delivered a letter to him; it was from Huang Rong. In the letter Huang Rong reminded him that he had promised no matter what Huang Rong asked, he would comply. Now Huang Rong wanted him to go kill the Clan Leader of the Iron Palm Clan, Qiu Qianren. She explained that Emperor Duan’s Concubine Liu had a very deep enmity against this man; if he killed him, Concubine Liu would not look for him anymore. Otherwise, Concubine Liu would find him even to the end of the earth, to take him as her husband. Huang Rong also gave him the detail of the Iron Palm Peak’s exact location.

Zhou Botong thought that his promise ‘to comply no matter what’ was actually given to Huang Rong; but that old scoundrel Qiu Qianren colluded with the Jins, he was a traitor, so he felt it was appropriate to kill him. As for his own affair with Concubine Liu, he realized he had offended her deeply; she had a deep enmity against Qiu Qianren, so if he lent her a hand, she might not come and bother him anymore, and that would be an awfully good luck for him. Therefore, he decided to go to the Iron Palm Peak.

At first Qiu Qianren was able to match him stance for stance, but as soon as Zhou Botong used the mutual hands combat technique, Qiu Qianren was forced to withdraw. When martial art masters contended, as soon as one admit inferiority, then victory or defeat should be decided; who would have thought that Zhou Botong did not want to stop and kept chasing him. Qiu Qianren did ask him the reason behind it several times, but Zhou Botong only looked at him with a blank expression; could not tell him the real reason. He only said three characters ‘liu gui fei’ [Concubine Liu]; and that would be enough to take his head.

Two men fought and stop, one ran away the other chased; they went farther and farther away. Zhou Botong’s martial art was slightly superior to Qiu Qianren’s; yet it would not be easy for him to kill Qiu Qianren. Qiu Qianren had tried any means possible to get rid of him; but Zhou Botong doggedly chased him anywhere he went. He thought, “Would you still chase me if I go to the bitter cold west?” On the other hand Zhou Botong thought, “I want to see where you would go; then I’ll go back home.”

As soon as they arrive at the desert outside the great wall, the landscape was flat, it was easy to follow someone’s trail; Qiu Qianren did not have any place to hide. Fortunately Zhou Botong had shown a good faith toward him; whenever Qiu Qianren needed to sleep or sat down to eat his meal, or perhaps he was having a bowel movement or urinating, Zhou Botong did not disturb him in any way; he simply did the same. But no matter what Qiu Qianren did, no matter how bad he cursed him, the Old Urchin haunted him like a ghost, continuously pestering him.

The more Zhou Botong fought Qiu Qianren, the more excited he became. Several times he did gain an upper hand, but unexpectedly he did not kill Qiu Qianren. That particular day, two men fought and ran and by a pure coincidence rushed into the stone building.

Now Zhou and Guo two people knew who the other three people were, but when the three of them called out each other’s name, their voices were drown by the loud commotion outside; hence Ouyang Feng still did not know who the other person was. He only knew that person was Zhou Botong’s enemy. On the other hand, Qiu Qianren thought the other two were on the same side.

Zhou, Qiu and Ouyang, all three people possessed outstanding martial art skills; but after battling Ouyang Feng for more than a month, Guo Jing’s martial art level was also improving by leaps and bound, which enable him to keep pace with the other three. These four martial art masters were confined in a pitch-black, approximately two ‘zhang’s square room; they could not see a thing, could not hear each other, and could not talk to each other. It was as if they had turned into deaf, mute and blind people.

“If I block Ouyang Feng, then Zhou Dage can finish off Qiu Qianren. After that it won’t be too difficult for us two people to join forces to kill Ouyang Feng,” Guo Jing thought. Once he reached that decision, his hands started to move. His right hand hit an empty air, while his left palm met someone else’s hand.

On the Peach Blossom Island Guo Jing had fought Zhou Botong countless of times; therefore, as soon as his palm touched Zhou’s hand, he knew immediately it was his Zhou Dage, he retracted his palm quickly. Unexpectedly Zhou Botong’s childlike enthusiasm was aroused; he slightly shrank his left arm then sent out a right fist toward Guo Jing’s shoulder. This hit did not carry any strong internal energy, but since Guo Jing did not guard against it, he felt pain nonetheless. “Hao Xiongdi [Good Brother], you want to test your Dage’s martial art? Be careful!” Zhou Botong said, his left palm shot out. Guo Jing could not hear what he said, but this time he was prepared; he wielded his arms and neutralized the attack.

By this time Ouyang Feng and Qiu Qianren had also exchanged several stances; as a result they recognized the opponent by his martial art. These two men did not have any enmity against each other, but they both thought that the Sword Meet of Mount Hua was coming. Potentially they were going to fight a life and death battle against each other anyway; therefore, why not try to inflict as much damage as possible to the opponent since they have the opportunity now? Hence they did not slack one bit.

After fighting for a moment they felt gusts of wind blowing behind them, to their surprise Zhou Botong was fighting Guo Jing. They were bewildered, but then they remembered Zhou Botong always handled matters differently, he was an unpredictable man; besides, it gave them a good opportunity, why wouldn’t they be happy? Thus without prior agreement they both attacked Zhou Botong and Guo Jing.

After exchanging more than a dozen moves with Guo Jing; Zhou Botong found out that Guo Jing’s martial art was far more advanced than what he had known, he was pleasantly surprised. “Xiongdi, where did you learn your martial art from?” he asked. But the noise outside was deafening, how could Guo Jing hear what he said? Zhou Botong was offended, “Fine, you don’t want to tell me. Do you think I care?” Right at that moment he felt a gust of wind on his face, Ouyang and Qiu’s attacks had arrived. Zhou Botong kicked the ground and leaped up to the beam. “I’ll let you fight these two alone!” he called out.

Ouyang Feng and Qiu Qianren felt the wind from Zhou Botong’s sleeves, they realized he had jumped to the beam; they had the same thought of joining forces and kill this dumb kid, suddenly Guo Jing had to face a converging attack from left and right.

Initially Guo Jing was surrounded by Zhou Botong’s attacks; he had tried four, five different techniques but was unable to free himself. He was waiting for Zhou Botong to withdraw when two powerful enemies attacked; which forced him to groan inwardly. He had no choice but braced himself and used the mutual hands combat technique to resist these two.

After fighting for a while Ouyang Feng and Qiu Qianren were unable to restrain their amazement. Knowing Guo Jing’s skill, either one of Ouyang Feng or Qiu Qianren should be able to defeat him easily. Who would have thought that after fighting two against one, Guo Jing’s left palm could block Ouyang Feng’s attacks, while his right fist thwarted Qiu’s palms? Two people were helpless against one.

Zhou Botong was sitting on the beam; he had decided to get down, but was afraid Guo Jing might get hurt, so quietly he slid down the wall, stretching out both his hands arbitrarily, and by coincidence caught Ouyang Feng’s back.

Ouyang Feng was squatting on the ground, ready to strike Guo Jing with his fierce Toad Stance; suddenly he felt somebody on his back, hastily he sent his palms backward. Guo Jing seized this opportunity to kick Qiu Qianren then leap to the corner of the house, gasping for breath. If Zhou Botong were one step late, he would be injured by Ouyang Feng’s attack.

Four people in the pitch-black room clashed to each other then separated from each other. Sometimes Zhou Botong fought Qiu Qianren, sometimes Guo Jing fought Qiu Qianren, sometimes Ouyang Feng fought Qiu Qianren, sometimes Zhou Botong fought Ouyang Feng, and sometimes Guo Jing fought Zhou Botong. Four people engaged in this mixed-up fight, among them Zhou Botong was most excited; it was the most fun among all of his fights, of course he would not let this opportunity pass.

After fighting for a while an idea popped up in his head. “My two hands can be considered two people; Ouyang and Qiu are also two. See if you can fight four people at once. Have you ever tried this?” he asked Guo Jing.

Guo Jing did not hear what he said, but suddenly felt three people attack him at the same time; desperately he tried to block and evade. “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid,” Zhou Botong encouraged him, “I will help you if you are in danger.” But in this dark room, as soon as somebody sent out a fist or a kick, his life would be in grave danger; how could Zhou Botong have time to help?

A dozen or so stances later Guo Jing was already dead-tired; he felt Ouyang and Qiu, two people’s fists were getting heavier and heavier, he was forced to step back one step after another. He wanted to jump up the beam to catch his breath, but Zhou Botong’s palms did not give him any slack. He was both alarmed and angry, finally he lost his patience, “Zhou Dage, you silly old man, why do you bother me?” but his words were drowned by the commotion outside, nobody heard him.

Guo Jing withdrew several more steps, suddenly his feet knocked the big rock on the ground; he nearly tumbled down. Before he had any chance to straighten up his waist, Qiu Qianren’s iron palm was ready to slap him down. In this dire situation Guo Jing did not lose his wit, swiftly he picked the big rock up and held it in front of his chest. Qiu Qianren’s palm hit the rock. Guo Jing focused his strength on his arms and pushed the rock forward to meet the attack. Suddenly he felt gust of wind coming from his left; Ouyang Feng’s palm had arrived. With a loud shout Guo Jing threw the big rock upward, while he jumped sideways to evade the attack.

The big rock flew through the roof; bricks and plasters fell down like rain. Immediately the stars in the sky above cast a dim light through the hole. Zhou Botong was angry, “Look what you did! Now we lost all the fun!”

Guo Jing was extremely exhausted; he kicked the ground and jumped out through the hole. Ouyang Feng hastily flew up to chase him. Zhou Botong shouted, “Don’t go! Don’t go! Stay here and play with me.” He stretched out his hand to grab Ouyang Feng’s left foot. Ouyang Feng was startled, quickly his right foot kicked, forcing Zhou Botong’s hand to let go; but as a result he could not jump and was forced to land back down.

Qiu Qianren did not wait for him to land, he sent out a kick toward Ouyang Feng’s chest. Ouyang Feng slightly pulled his chest back while stretching out his arm to grab Qiu Qianren’s ankle. Three people once again engaged in a fierce battle against each other. This time they could vaguely see each other’s shadow; while the battle noise outside was also gradually diminishing. The thrill of the fight decreased substantially.

Zhou Botong was upset, he lost his interest; he vented his disappointment toward these two people. His fist technique changed abruptly, he fought the two people with murderous intention.

After escaping from the house via the roof, Guo Jing saw the troops and horses running around swiftly; he could also hear the sound of clashing weapons in a distance. Oftentimes he heard heart-rending groan and cry of soldiers wounded by blades or arrows. He dashed through these miserable people, running toward a small wood outside the village to lie down and take some rest.

He had fought fiercely for half a night, as he lay down, he felt his whole body, muscles and bones were aching, like they were going to crack. Recalling the fight inside that stone house, he shivered involuntarily. Although worried about Zhou Botong’s safety, but with his martial art level he knew even if he came back there he would not be able to help Zhou escape. Finally he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.

Early morning the next day he felt his face was wet and cold, something was wiggling around on his face. Startled he opened his eyes and leaped up, only to listen to a happy neighing sound. Turned out it was his little red horse licking his face. Guo Jing was delighted, immediately he hugged the horse’s neck; one man and one horse embraced in a joyful reunion.

When Guo Jing was held captive by Ouyang Feng, the red horse was let loose outside; it went grazing on the nearby prairie. During the fierce battle last night the horse utilized its swift legs to escape. When the soldiers were gone, the horse came back and found its master.

Guo Jing led the red horse returned to the village only to see broken bows and arrows everywhere, dead soldiers and horses scattered all around. Here and there he saw injured soldiers who were still alive, crying out pitifully. He had been in a lot of battles, he was accustomed to dead or wounded soldiers; but recalling his own life experience he could not refrain from feeling a great sorrow.

Quietly he returned to the stone building. Cocking his ears outside he tried to listen, but the house was quiet. He took a peek through a crack in the door and saw no one inside. He pushed the door open to see; but Zhou Botong, Ouyang Feng, and Qiu Qianren three people had already disappeared without ay trace.

He stared blankly for half a day then mounted his horse heading east. The little red horse ran very fast, very soon they caught up with Genghis Khan’s main army.

By this time Khoresm cities had either surrendered or been destroyed; hundreds of thousand warriors had fallen like broken tiles. Khoresm king, Muhammad, was a haughty tyrant; he was deserted by his friends and allies. He led the remnants of his defeated army desperately escape to the west. Genghis Khan assigned his senior generals, Subotai and Jebeh to lead twenty thousand soldiers to pursue to the west; while he led the main army went home to the east.

Subotai and Jebeh pursued to the west of modern day city of Moscow, to the city of Kiev nearby the bank of Dnieper River. They crushed several hundred thousands of Russia and Kipchak alliance army; destroyed the city of Kiev and killed the Hertog [Grand Duke] of Kiev along with eleven princes by running a chariot over them. This war was called ‘The Battle of the Kalka River’. Since then the Russian prairie groaned under the Mongolian horses’ hoofs.

Muhammad went as far west as he could, finally he escaped to a deserted island on the Caspian Sea and died of illness there.

When suddenly Guo Jing disappeared at Samarkhand, Genghis Khan was very worried. He was afraid that Guo Jing somehow got killed in the chaotic battle without anybody knowing it. Seeing him return safe and sound he was really thrilled. Needless to say, Princess Huazheng was even more overjoyed.

Qiu Chuji followed the main army went back to the east. Along the way he was always giving advice to the Great Khan to love the people more and kill innocent civilians less. Although Genghis Khan did not necessarily agree with his view, he realized the Priest spoke reasonably, hence he did not argue too much. In the chaotic battles that followed, Qiu Chuji had succeeded in saving innumerable civilians’ lives.

Khoresm was located tens of thousands of ‘li’s from Mongolia; the return of Genghis Khan’s army to the east took a very long time. As soon as they arrived back home, he held a big feast to celebrate their victory by the bank of Onon River; while giving the injured soldiers time to recuperate. Qiu Chuji and his disciples, along with Lu Youjiao and the rest of the Beggar Clan disciples took their leave and went back to the south.

Several months later Genghis Khan saw his warriors had eaten to their hearts’ contents, their horses galloped freely on the prairie; his interest to attack the south was rekindled. One day he held a general assembly to discuss strategies to defeat the Jin country.

Ever since Huang Rong’s death, Guo Jing was broken hearted; oftentimes he went riding alone with only his little red horse and his pair of eagles to keep him company, wandering the vast Mongolian prairie. Most of the time he would just stare blankly and not say anything for a few days. Princess Huazheng was always trying to speak warmly to him, but it seemed like he did not hear anything she said. Everybody knew his feelings, knew that he was grieving, so nobody dared to bring up the wedding plan; while Genghis Khan was busy preparing the expedition to the south and did not pay attention to this matter.

That day at the general assembly inside the Great Khan’s Golden Tent, many generals proposed various tactics and strategies to attack the south; yet Guo Jing did not utter a single word. After dismissing his generals, Genghis Khan went to the top of a small hill and stayed there for half a day, to think of the actions he would take. The next day he dispatched his army to attack the Jins from three directions. At that moment his eldest son Jochi and his second son Chagatai were still busy consolidating their conquests in the west; therefore, he put the main army to take the Jins down under his third son, Ogedei; while the left flank was placed under the command of his fourth son, Tuolei, and the right flank was placed under Guo Jing’s command.

Genghis Khan summoned the three commander-in-chiefs privately; he even ordered his personal guards to leave the tent. To Ogedei, Tuolei and Guo Jing he said, “The Jins concentrate their defense in the city of Tongguan; the city is bordered on the south by a mountain and on the north by a river, it really is difficult to break. Numerous generals’ proposals all have some ground to them, but if we advance frontally, unavoidably we will waste a lot of time. Currently our Mongolia has formed an alliance with the Great Song; I think the best strategy would be advancing through the Song territory. From Tangzhou the army to proceed via Dengzhou straight to the Jin capital Daliang.”

As Ogedei, Tuolei and Guo Jing three people heard to this point, they jumped and hugged each other, loudly shouted, “Ingenious plan!”

Genghis Khan smiled and asked Guo Jing, “You are very good in battle strategy; truly a man after my own heart. Let me ask you, after attacking Daliang, then what?”

Guo Jing contemplated for a while then shook his head, “We are not attacking Daliang,” he said.

Ogedei and Tuolei clearly heard their father king said they were going to attack Daliang, why did Guo Jing say they were not going to? They were startled and looked at him with a questioning look. Genghis Khan still showed a faint smile on his face, “Not attacking Daliang, then what?” he asked.

“Not attacking is actually attacking; attack but do not attack, do not attack but attack,” Guo Jing said. He made Ogedei and Tuolei more confused than ever.

“Attack but do not attack, do not attack but attack [gong er bu gong, bu gong er gong],” Genghis Khan smiled, “These eight characters were very well said. Explain it to your two brothers.”

Guo Jing complied. “I can guess the Great Khan’s troops advancement method; we pretend to attack the Jin capital, destroying the enemy under the city wall. Daliang is where the Jin Emperor resides, but the troops stationed there are actually not too many. As soon as it is under attack, the Jins will immediately send troops from the neighboring city Tongguan to rescue. Chinese military strategist said, ‘A massive troops movement can’t be done in a day; traveling hundreds of ‘li’s is draining the energy and crippling the three generals. Strong at first, weary in the end. This is the eleventh method.’ By traveling fast for a hundred ‘li’s, the soldiers strength will be reduced to only 10% of their original strength. As they leave Tongguan and go to Daliang, the great distance is their biggest disadvantage; they should take ten rest stops, but can only take one instead. Even if they reach Daliang on time, they will be weary and unable to fight. Our troops simply have to wait for the exhausted enemy then we can easily destroy the Jin army. Once the strong Jin army is defeated, then Daliang will fall. If we concentrate on directly attacking Daliang, not only it will be difficult, but we can be attacked from both front and rear.”

Genghis Khan clapped his hands and laughed aloud, he called out, “Well said, well said!” He pulled a scroll out and spread it on the table. Three people looked at it and were greatly astonished. Turned out it was the map of Daliang and its neighboring area. On it were drawn routes of troop’s movement, both theirs and the enemy’s. It also contained strategies on how to attack the enemy’s rear flank, how to attack the enemy’s main body, how to lure and destroy the incoming enemies from Tongguan, how to make them weary and obliterate them outside the city wall; everything was just as Guo Jing had said.

Ogedei and Tuolei looked at their father king, also looked at Guo Jing with bewilderment and admiration on their face. Guo Jing’s heart was also full of admiration, he thought, “I learned the military strategy from the ‘Wumu Legacy’, nothing strange about it; but the Great Khan is illiterate, he possesses a natural ability for this kind of things.”

Genghis Khan continued, “In our expedition to the south this time, I am sure the Jins will be destroyed. I have here three embroidered pouches for each one of you. After Daliang falls, the three of you should gather inside the imperial palace of the Jin emperor; you can open them up and act accordingly.” Upon saying that he took those embroidered pouches from his pocket and gave one to each of them.

As Guo Jing received the pouch, he saw that the mouth was sealed with wax and the seal carried the image of Genghis Khan’s signet ring.

“Before entering Daliang, I forbid you to open the pouch without authorization,” Genghis Khan said, “Before you open them, I want the three of you to examine each other’s pouch to see if the seal is damaged.”

The three of them bowed and said, “Who dare to defy The Great Khan’s decree?”

Genghis Khan asked Guo Jing, “You are usually slow in dealing everyday affairs; but how come you are so resourceful in dealing with military strategy?” Guo Jin then told him how he studied the military strategy from the ‘Wumu Legacy’. Genghis Khan asked him the life story of Yue Fei. Guo Jing told him how Yue Fei scored a big victory over the Jins at the ‘zhu xian zhen’ [vermillion immortal small town]; that the Jins gave him a nickname, ‘Yue Yeye’ [grandfather Yue]; that they had a saying, ‘shaking a mountain is easy, shaking Yue’s army is difficult’; Guo Jing recounted everything. Genghis Khan was silent, carrying his hands behind his back he paced back and forth inside his tent; sighing, “I regret I was not born a hundred years earlier to befriend this great hero. In this world today, who can be my rival?” His words carried a great loneliness.

As he was leaving the Golden Tent, Guo Jing remembered that in the past several days he had been busy with military business and did not spend as much time with his mother as he should. Since the next day he was going south leading the troops to avenge his country, the Great Song, against its archenemy, the Jin; today he wanted to spend as much time with his mother as he could. Hence he immediately headed toward his mother’s tent.

To his surprise, the tent was empty, all her clothes and other belongings were moved someplace else; only an old soldier stayed there on guard duty. He asked the soldier, and was told that the madam surnamed Li had received the Great Khan’s order to move to another tent. Guo Jing asked where the new tent was, and quickly walked over. He was surprised to see the tent was several times bigger than the one she used to live in. He lifted the curtain to enter, and he was even more surprised; the tent was full of gold, jade, and precious jewels, as well as fancy clothes and embroidery works; they were all the spoils of Mongolian army’s military expedition.

Princess Huazheng was sitting next to Li Ping, listening to her story about Guo Jing’s childhood. As she saw Guo Jing enter, she smiled, stood up and greeted him.

“Ma [mother], where did all these things come from?” Guo Jing asked.

“The Great Khan says you have rendered a great service in the west; therefore, he bestowed all of these for you to enjoy,” Li Ping answered. “Actually, we are simple people and have no use of these extravagances.”

Guo Jing nodded, he also saw there were more than eight maids attending to his mother’s needs; they were also captives that the troops seized.

After making some idle talk with Guo Jing and his mother for a while, Huazheng took her leave. She thought Guo Jing would leave for another long journey the next day, so he must have had a lot to talk about with her today. Who would have thought that after waiting outside the tent for half a day Guo Jing did not come out. Li Ping understood, she said, “Jing’er, Princess is waiting for you outside, you need to say goodbye to her.”

Guo Jing replied in affirmative, but did not budge from his chair. Li Ping sighed, “We have lived in this northern country for twenty years. Although we have received the Great Khan’s benevolence like we are part of his family, but actually I miss my hometown very much. I hope you can defeat the Jin country soon, so that we, mother and son, will be able to return to our hometown. We can live in the Ox Village, where your father’s home used to be. I know you are not greedy of fame and fortune, so you don’t need to go back north. Only this business with the Princess, I don’t know how to deal with; it is a really difficult matter.”

“Your son had early on told the Princess, that if Rong’er died, your son will never marry for the rest of my life,” Guo Jing said. Li Ping sighed, “Perhaps the Princess can accept that, but what worries me most is the Great Khan.”

“What about the Great Khan?” Guo Jing asked.

“These past few days the Great Khan all of a sudden treats us, mother and child, with an unusual kindness,” Li Ping answered, “He showered us with money, precious jewels, everything. He said it was your reward from the expedition to the west, but I have lived in this northern Mongolian desert for twenty years, I know the Great Khan’s personality. I feel like there is more to it than what meets the eye.”

“Ma,” Guo Jing said, “What do you think it is?”

“I am just a simple woman, how could I have a respected opinion?” Li Ping said, “But if my intuition is right, the Great Khan wants to compel us to do something for him.”

“Hmm, perhaps he wants me to marry the Princess,” Guo Jing guessed.

“Getting married is a good thing,” Li Ping answered, “Even if the Great Khan does not know your feeling, he does not need to compel you. The way I see it, you are commanding a big army to the south; maybe the Great Khan is afraid you will have a change of heart and rebel against him.”

Guo Jing shook his head, “I have no intention to gain riches and honor, and the Great Khan knew it. Why would I rebel against him?”

“I have an idea,” Li Ping said, “We will find out quietly what the Great Khan’s real intention is. Tell him that I miss my hometown very much, and want to go along to the south with you. Tell him that, see what he would say.”

Guo Jing was delighted, “Ma, why didn’t you say so earlier? We go home together, that will be wonderful! I am sure the Great Khan will give his permission.” He went out the tent and did not see Huazheng outside. He thought perhaps she had waited for a while and could not wait much longer.

Guo Jing was gone for half a day, and he came back dejected. “The Great Khan did not give us his permission, did he?” Li Ping asked.

“I don’t understand,” Guo Jing replied, “Why would the Great Khan want to keep you here?” Li Ping was silent. “The Great Khan said,” Guo Jing continued, “That as soon as the Jin country is defeated, he will let me take you home; we will return with all the glory and honor. Why would I want that? I said mother misses her home very much and wants to go home sooner. The Great Khan suddenly looked angry, he kept shaking his head, did not give us his permission.”

Li Ping hesitated. “What else did the Great Khan say to you today?” she asked.

Guo Jing told her everything that happened inside the Golden Tent earlier, how he received his assignment, including the secret order he received inside the embroidered pouch.

“Ay!” Li Ping sighed, “If only your Second Master and Rong’er were here, they should be able to shed some lights on this matter. It’s a pity I am only a simple country girl. The more I think about it, the more restless I became; I don’t know why.”

Guo Jing played with the embroidered pouch in his hand; he said, “When the Great Khan gave this embroidered pouch, his face looked unusual. I am afraid it has something to do with this secret order.”

Li Ping took the embroidered pouch from his hand; she looked at it carefully, then she dismissed all the maids and suddenly said, “Let’s open it up and take a look.”

Guo Jing was shocked, “No! Breaking the royal seal means death.”

Li Ping smiled, “Do you know that the embroidery work of the Lin’an prefecture is well-known throughout the world? Your mother is a Lin’an native, I have learned embroidery since my childhood. I can open up this pouch without damaging the seal, and I can sew it back on as good as new. Nobody will find out.”

Guo Jing was delighted. Li Ping fetched her needles and carefully undid the silk thread that was holding the embroidered pouch together. She took a folded paper through the seam and spread it out to take a look. As they read the paper, mother and son looked at each other; a chill crept up their bodies.

Turned out it was Genghis Khan’s secret order to Ogedei, Tuolei and Guo Jing; as soon as the Jin is defeated, they were to proceed south to Lin’an in the shortest time possible, to defeat the Song and unify it under the Great Mongolia. The secret order also said that if Guo Jing rendered a great merit, he was to be crowned the prince with all glory and honor belonging to that title; but if he harbored a different mind, Ogedei and Tuolei were to behead him immediately, and his mother must also be executed.

Guo Jing stared blankly for half a day, finally he said, “Ma, if not for your skill in opening up this pouch, I don’t know if we, mother and child, could have kept our lives. I am a citizen of our Great Song, how could I sell my own country for personal gain?”

“What are we going to do?” Li Ping asked.

“Ma, I regret that you will have to suffer some hardship,” Guo Jing said, “We are running away to the south, tonight.” “Absolutely,” Li Ping replied, “Go and make necessary preparation; don’t let anybody find out our plan.”

Guo Jing nodded; quickly returned to his own tent. He only took several changes of clothing. Other than his little red horse, he took eight horses, with the thought of his mother and he could rely on those horses to escape in case the Great Khan’s army pursued them. He left all the gold and precious jewels the Great Khan gave him, along with the tiger-head hilt golden blade, in the tent. He removed his general uniform and put on regular leather clothing. He grew up in the desert, today he was going to leave for good, never to return, he could not refrain from feeling sadness in his heart. He left the tent he considered to be home with a heavy heart. He saw the sky was getting darker, so quickly he went back to his mother’s tent.

Lifting the tent cover his heart skipped a beat. His mother was gone; only two bundles lying on the ground. “Ma!” he called out, but nobody answered. He felt something was terribly wrong; he was about to go out of the tent to look for his mother when suddenly the curtain was lifted up, a bright light from a torch dazzled his eyes. General Chilaun was standing outside the tent, calling out, “The Great Khan summons the Golden Blade Consort!” Chilaun was accompanied by a great number of soldiers, all wielding spears.

Seeing this situation Guo Jing was really anxious. If he relied on his martial art, Chilaun would not be able to do anything to him, but he remembered his mother, “Mother must be captured by the Great Khan, how I could escape alone?” he thought. Thus he followed Chilaun walking toward the Golden Tent.

He saw two-thousand of the Great Khan’s archers were arrayed in row after row outside the tent, all wielding long sabers or halberds. Chilaun said, “The Great Khan ordered me to bind you. Please forgive me for offending the Consort.” Guo Jing nodded, put his hands behind his back, then in big strides he entered the tent.

It was very bright, almost like a daytime, with dozens of butter candles burning inside the tent. Genghis Khan looked very angry, he slapped a table and shouted, “I have never treated you badly; I raised you up since you were little; I also gave my beloved daughter to be your wife. Little thief, you dare to rebel against me?”

Guo Jing saw the embroidered pouch and the letter inside it were lying on the table; he knew he would die soon. Boldly he answered, “I am the Great Song’s citizen. How can I obey your order to attack my own country?”

Hearing him boldly defying his words, Genghis Khan was enraged. “Take him out and execute him!” he shouted.

Guo Jing’s hands were tightly tied behind his back, while eight soldiers wielding sabers guarded him; he was unable to resist, he shouted loudly, “You made an alliance with the Great Song to defeat the Jins; halfway there you renounced your own promise, you failed to keep your word, what kind of hero is that?” Genghis Khan was livid; his foot flew out and kicked the table upside down, shouted loudly, “After the Jin is defeated my alliance with the Song will be completed. If I attack the south, how can you say I break my promise? Quickly behead him!”

A lot of the generals were actually good to Guo Jing, but seeing their Great Khan was in fury, nobody dared to say anything. Guo Jing did not say another word. He walked out of the tent in big strides.

Suddenly from the prairie Toulei came rushing in, riding on a horseback, shouting loudly, “Hold your blade!” His upper body was naked, while only wearing a pair of leather pants on his lower body. It looked like he was asleep when the report came; hastily he came over to plead for Guo Jing. He rushed into the Golden Tent and said, “Father King, Guo Jing Anda has rendered a great service; he had saved your life as well as mine. Although he had committed a capital crime, you can’t behead him.”

Recalling Guo Jing’s merits Genghis Khan called out, “Bring him back!” The guards took him back into the tent.

Genghis Khan was silent for half a day; he finally said, “You are loyal to the Song; what good does it bring you? Once you told me the story of Yue Fei; he was utterly loyal, serving his country, yet in the end he was executed anyway. You help me conquering the Song Dynasty, today in front of all these people I give you my oath that I am going to make you the king of the Song, then you can unify your river and mountain [jiang shan – meaning country].”

“I have never dared to rebel against the Great Khan,” Guo Jing said, “But if you want me to sell my own country in exchange of my own riches and honor, then although a thousand blades and ten thousand arrows should pierce my body, I still cannot follow your order.”

“Bring his mother here!” Genghis Khan ordered. Two of his guards took Li Ping out from the back of the tent.

Guo Jing saw his mother, “Ma!” he called out trying to approach her, but the guards raised their blades to block. “This matter is only known to us, mother and son, who could have leaked our secret?” Guo Jing thought.

Genghis Khan said, “If you will obey my command, you and your mother will enjoy abundant riches and glory; if not, your mother will be executed, that means you bring your own mother’s death. You will become an unfilial son.”

Guo Jing was intimidated by his words, he was terror-stricken, and could only lower his head without knowing what to do.

“Anda,” Tuolei urged, “You grew up in Mongolia, you are no different than Mongolian people. The Song Dynasty is a corrupt government, colluding with the Jins in killing your father and forcing your mother to leave home. If not for my Father King’s benevolence, where would you be today? You and I are brothers who love each other so much; I cannot let you become an unfilial person. I do hope you will reconsider your decision; receive and obey the Great Khan’s command.”

Guo Jing looked at his mother, wanting to ask her opinion; but he recalled what his mother had taught him all this time he was growing up. He also remembered the pitiable condition of the people of the western countries Mongolia had conquered; how families were broken up and killed. It was truly a difficult dilemma he was facing.

Genghis Khan’s pair of tiger eyes stared at him, waiting for him to speak. The several hundreds people inside the Golden Tent held their breath; all eyes were trained toward Guo Jing.

“I …,” Guo Jing said, moved forward one step, but did not continue.

“Great Khan,” suddenly Li Ping opened her mouth, “I am afraid this child doesn’t understand this matter clearly; why don’t I try to give him some advice?”

Genghis Khan was delighted, he quickly agreed, “Very well, quickly advice him.”

Li Ping stepped forward, pulled Guo Jing’s arm, took him to a corner of the Golden Tent, then they sat down together. Li Ping embraced her son tight in her bosom, then gently said, “Twenty years ago at the Ox Village in Lin’an prefecture, I was expecting a child: you. It was snowing heavily that day, when Priest Qiu Chuji met your father. He presented a gift of two daggers; one he gave to your father, the other he gave to your Uncle Yang.” While saying that, she took the dagger from Guo Jing’s waist, and pointed to the two characters carved on the dagger’s hilt, ‘Guo Jing’. She said, “Qiu Daozhang gave the name ‘Guo Jing’ to you, and ‘Yang Kang’ to Uncle Yang’s child. Do you know the story behind those names?”

“Qiu Daozhang wanted us not to forget the disgrace of Jingkang,” Guo Jing answered.

“Right,” Li Ping said, “That Yang family kid regarded an enemy for a father, and as a result his body perished and his name disgraced. But it’s useless to talk about him. I just feel bad for your Uncle Yang; he was such a great hero, his own son has tarnished his illustrious name.” Sighing heavily she continued, “I have endured suffering and shame for many years; raising you in this bitter cold desert of the north, why did I do that? Would I raise someone who would sell his own country and become a traitor; so that your father in the underworld would be grieved and disgraced?”

“Ma!” Guo Jing almost shouted; tears flowing down his cheeks.

Li Ping was speaking in Chinese, Genghis Khan, Tuolei, and the other generals did not understand what she said, but they saw Guo Jing burst into tears; they thought Li Ping was afraid of death and she had succeeded in persuading her son, they were secretly pleased.

Li Ping continued, “Man can only live for a hundred years, it will pass in a flash; what’s the big deal about living or dying? As long as you live with an upright heart and keep your honor clean; then your life won’t be in vain. If other people treat us badly, we don’t need to repay their wickedness. Child, remember what I said!” She looked at Guo Jing intently for a long time; her face looked very tender. Finally she said, “Child, you must take a good care of yourself!” While saying that she raised the dagger and cut the ropes binding Guo Jing’s hands; then straightaway turned the blade and thrust it into her own chest.

Guo Jing untied his hands, and rushed to snatch the dagger away, but he was too late. The dagger was extremely sharp, it had already entered her chest up to the hilt.

Genghis Khan was shocked, “Seize him!” he shouted. The eight guards did not dare to hurt the Consort; they threw their blades to the ground and pounced on Guo Jing.

Guo Jing’s heart was full of sorrow; while holding his mother tight, he swept his leg and two guards were sent flying and tumbling down to the ground. His left elbow shot backwards, and with a ‘crack’ sound hit a guard on the chest, breaking his ribs.

Several generals shouted and stepped forward. Guo Jing dashed toward the back of the tent. His left hand pulled the rope that held the tent taut, and half of the golden tent collapsed, falling on top of the officers’ heads.

Amidst the confusion he leaped up and out of the tent, still holding his mother tight. But the horn was sounded, officers and soldiers mounted their horses and pursued after him. Guo Jing was weeping and calling his mother, “Ma!” yet his mother did not answer; he felt for her breathing, but his mother had already died. Holding his mother’s corpse he tried to take advantage of the dark and break through the camp, but everywhere he heard people shouting and horses neighing; then torches were lighted up, illuminating the camp like millions of stars illuminating the dark night.

He was nervous not knowing which way he should go; everywhere he looked he saw Mongolian officers and soldiers. Even if he were supernaturally brave, but he was only one man; how could he face tens of thousands Mongolian army by himself? If he were riding on his little red horse, then he could outrun all these people, but he was on foot carrying his mother. It was a million times more difficult to escape from danger.

He stopped crying and without saying another word ran forward as fast as he could. He thought that as long as he could reach the cliff, he could use his lightness kungfu to climb the cliff. Although Mongolian soldiers were many, nobody could crawl up the cliff. Hence he might evade their chase momentarily and thought about ways to escape.

While rushing forward suddenly he heard shouts coming from the front, a cavalry was coming, under the torch light he saw they were led by a red-face, white-bearded general; it was one of the four warriors, senior general Chilaun. Guo Jing leaned sideways to evade Chilaun’s hacking saber. Instead of turning back to run away, he charged into the cavalry. The Mongolian soldiers were startled and shouted even louder.

Guo Jing stretched out his left hand, grabbing a ‘shi zhang fu’ [leader of a ten men unit] right leg; at the same time his right foot kicked the ground and he flew upwards. He landed on the horseback, put down his mother’s corpse on the horseback. Without too much trouble he threw the ‘shi zhang fu’ to the ground while simultaneously snatched his spear.

The jump to the horseback, putting down his mother, throwing the ‘shi zhang fu’ down, and snatching his spear; four actions were executed in one swift and fluid motion. On the horseback he became like a tiger grew a pair of wings; his legs squeezed the horse, and sweeping his spear he charged through the cavalry. Chilaun shouted his order and his troops turned back to pursue Guo Jing.

He managed to escape from the enemy, but the direction his horse was running was actually opposite to the direction to the cliff; the more the horse ran, the farther they became. Should he run directly to the south, or should he try to reach the cliff?

While he was still contemplating which way to go, another senior general, Bourchu had arrived with his troops. This time Genghis Khan had flown into a rage; he passed an order to capture Guo Jing at all cost. Group by group the cavalries were dispatched; thousand of riders ran quickly to the south, trying to block all passages leading to the south. Guo Jing outran the group led by Bourchu; his clothes and his horse were full of blood.

It was a good thing that the Great Khan ordered them to capture Guo Jing alive; otherwise the Mongolian soldiers would assault him with arrows. With arrows coming from all three directions, even if Guo Jing were supernaturally brave, how could he escape this tight siege?

Guo Jing felt his mother’s body in his hand turned colder and colder; he struggled hard to hold his tears, urging his horse to keep running south. He had left the pursuers far behind, but the day was getting brighter, soon it would be dawn; while he was still in the center of Mongolian territory; ten thousands ‘li’s away from the Central Plains. With only a horse and a spear, how could he escape to his hometown?

Riding for a while, he saw the dust was rising from the ground ahead of him; a group of cavalry was coming his way. Guo Jing held the rein and turned to the east. But his horse had been running for half a night, continuously supporting Guo Jing and his mother’s body; suddenly its front legs gave up, it fell kneeling on the ground, unable to stand any longer. It was a very critical situation, yet Guo Jing still did not want to be separated from his mother’s corpse. With his left arm holding her and his right arm wielding the spear, he charged into the incoming cavalry.

He saw the cavalry was getting very close; suddenly amidst the rising dust came a swishing noise, an arrow flew in and hit his spear. The arrow was very strong, Guo Jing’s hand was shaken and the spearhead was broken. While he was still in shock, another arrow flew toward his chest. Guo Jing tossed the broken spear sideways and held out his hand in front of his body to catch the arrow. To his surprise, the arrowhead was already broken. He lifted his head only to see a general holding his rein and stopped in front of Guo Jing. It was the man who taught him archery; the Divine Archer Jebeh.

“Shifu!” Guo Jing called out, “Are you going to take me back?” “Absolutely,” Jebeh said.

Guo Jing thought, “In any way it will be difficult for me to escape this tight siege today. Rather than let others capture me, why don’t I let Shifu have this merit?” Therefore, he said, “Very well, just let me bury my mother first.”

Looking at four directions he saw toward his left a small mound. He carried his mother’s body to that mound; dug the earth with his broken spear and lowered his mother gently into the hole. He saw the dagger in her chest, but he could not bear to take it out. He knelt on the ground and kowtowed several times before finally pouring the sandy soil on top of her body. He remembered his mother’s bitter suffering in raising him since he was a baby until he became an adult; and in the end he had to bury her just like this. He was overwhelmed with grief that he was unable to cry anymore.

Jebeh dismounted his horse and kowtowed four times in front of Li Ping’s grave. He stood up, then took his quiver, his bow, and his spear; and gave everything to Guo Jing. He also led his horse by the reins, and placed the reins in Guo Jing’s hand, he said, “Go. I am afraid we are not going to see each other anymore.”

Guo Jing was taken aback, “Shifu!” he called out.

“You dared to risk your life for me in the past; am I not a real man that I don’t dare to risk my life for you?” Jebeh said. “Shifu, you are defying the Great Khan’s order,” Guo Jing said, “You will be in great danger.”

“I have followed him attacking to the east and going to war in the west, my contribution is not small,” Jebeh said, “At most the Great Khan will beat me to half dead, he won’t behead me. Just go, quick!”

Guo Jing was still hesitating; Jebeh continued, “I am afraid my own troops would not want to listen to me, so I took the troops you led in the expedition to the west. Go ahead and asked them, whether they are greedy of riches and honor to turn you in?”

Leading his horse Guo Jing stepped forward; the cavalry dismounted their horses at once, and then knelt down on the ground, shouted, “Xiao Ren respectfully send General home to the south.” Guo Jing raised his eyes to see, and they were indeed the officers and soldiers who faced death with him in the west. Guo Jing’s heart was so moved. He said, “I have offended the Great Khan, deserving a capital punishment. You let me go; if the Great Khan finds out, all of you will be in big trouble.”

The soldiers replied, “General has treated us with benevolence as high as the mountain; we won’t forget that.”

Guo Jing sighed. He raised his hands to say goodbye to the troops, then with the spear in his hand he leaped to the horseback. He was about to move when suddenly the dust rose ahead of him, another group of cavalry came approaching.

Jebeh, Guo Jing, and the troops’ expression changed. Jebeh thought, “I have deliberately defied Khan’s order by letting Guo Jing go; but if I fight these troops, that would be a blatant rebellion.” Yet he did not change his mind, “Guo Jing, go!” he shouted. However, from the incoming army came a loud shout, “Don’t hurt the Consort!” Everybody was stunned. They saw the rushing army bore the Fourth Prince’s banner.

Amidst the rising cloud of dust Tuolei appeared and arrived in a flash; turned out he was riding Guo Jing’s swift little red horse. He held his rein and jumped down from the horseback, anxiously asked, “Anda, are you all right?”

“I am fine,” Guo Jing replied, “Master Jebeh is going to take me back to see the Great Khan.” He was deliberately protecting Jebeh; so that the Great Khan would not find out the real story.

Toulei cast a sidelong glance toward Jebeh, he said, “Anda, take this little red horse and leave quickly.” He also put a bundle on the saddle and continued, “Here is a thousand ‘liang’ of gold; we brothers will see each other again some other time.”

They were both great warriors; in time like this there was no need to say another word. Guo Jing stood up and mounted his little red horse. “Tell Huazheng Meizi [little sister – term of endearment] to take a good care of herself. Tell her to marry another man, just forget about me.”

Tuolei heaved a long sigh, “Huazheng Meizi will never agree to marry another. I think she is going to look for you in the south. At that time I will send somebody to escort her.”

“No, don’t come looking for me,” Guo Jing hastily said, “Not to mention the world is big, but even if she can find me, that will only add to our agony.”

Tuolei was silent; they looked at each other without saying anything. After half a day finally Tuolei said, “Just go, I will see you off for a while.”

Two people rode fast to the south; very soon they have covered more than thirty ‘li’s. “Anda,” Guo Jing said, “‘Even if one sees someone off a thousand ‘li’s, in the end they must part’, you can go back now!” “Let me see you off some more time,” Tuolei answered.

About ten more ‘li’s later, both men dismounted their horses and said their goodbyes; tears rolling down their cheeks.

Tuolei gazed at Guo Jing’s back, which became smaller and smaller; it looked like a dark shadow on the vastness of the desert, finally disappeared on the southern horizon. He stood motionless for a long time, then sadly mounted his horse and headed back north.

End of Chapter 38. 

Chapter 39 – Discerning Good From Evil

Guo Jing rode his horse for several days, leaving the dangerous area, slowly heading south. The day was getting warmer, the grass looked longer; along the way he saw the remnants of war: broken walls and ruined homes, human bones scattered here and there. The sights, the smell … Everything brought a dreadful and nauseating feeling in his heart.

One day he stopped to take a rest in a pavilion by the roadside. He saw these inscriptions on the pavilion’s wall, “A poem from a Tang Dynasty man: ‘Water trickles downward day by day, ultimately overpowering the cry of chicken and dogs. Thousand villages fell to become food to the wild animals. The people vanished in smoke to give way to the flowers.’ My Central Plains’ beautiful river and mountain unexpectedly fallen victim to violent battles. People turned into ashes as if the above poem was written for today’s situation.”

Looking at these lines of characters Guo Jing was entranced, sadness came creeping into his heart and he could not refrain from shedding some tears.

He had roamed this vast and boundless world, but actually did not know where he should go. Within just one short year his mother, Huang Rong, his five masters, the people that were dear to him had all died. Ouyang Feng had killed his masters and Huang Rong; he was going to find him and seek revenge. But as soon as he thought about the words ‘seek revenge’, the tragic massacre of the people of Khoresm came into his mind. In order for him to avenge his father’s death he had to kill so many innocent civilians, how could he have peace in his heart? It looked like this ‘seeking revenge’ matter was not necessarily a right thing to do.

Thinking about all other things, he came into this thought, “All my life I painstakingly trained myself in martial arts that finally I reached my current level, and then what? I can’t even protect my own mother and Rong’er, then what use is my martial art skill? I wanted with all my heart to be a good person, but in the end who would be happy because of me? Mother, Rong’er, both died because of me. Huazheng Meizi has to suffer forever because of me. Truly the number of people who suffered miserably because of me is not a few.” “Wanyan Honglie and Muhammad were bad people. But what about Genghis Khan? He killed Wanyan Honglie; so I should say he is a good person. But then he ordered me to attack the Great Song. He took care of my mother and me for twenty years, but in the end he had caused my mother’s death.”

“Yang Kang and I became sworn brothers, but our hearts were a world apart from the start. Sister Mu Nianci is a good person, but why did her heart set on loving only Yang Kang? Tuolei Anda and I love each other, but when he leads the army attacking south and we meet each other on the battlefield, should he and I kill each other? No, no. Everybody has a mother, a mother who carries him for ten months, who painstakingly nurture and raise him up; how could I kill somebody’s son and cause his mother to weep bitterly? He doesn’t have a heart to kill me; I don’t have a heart to kill him. However, shall I ignore the fact that he kills my Great Song’s innocent people?”

“Training martial art is for beating and killing people, it looks like I spent twenty years of my life incorrectly; I studied and learned diligently, painstakingly; in the end all I can do is bringing harm to other people. If I knew it from the start, I wouldn’t train to have a better skill in martial art. But if I don’t learn martial art, then what should I do? I live in this world, in the end, what is my purpose of life? Decades from now, what will happen to me? Is it better to live longer, or to die sooner? Right now I have already had endless anxiety, if I live longer, won’t I have more anxiety? But if I die sooner, why would my mother give birth to me? Why would she endure hardship and suffering to raise me up?” Tossing and turning with these thought, the more he thought, the more confused he became.

For several days he could not eat during the day, and could not sleep during the night; he went back and forth in the wilderness pondering all these things.

“Mother and my benevolent masters all taught me to uphold justice and keep my words. Therefore, although I loved Rong’er dearly I could not ask the Great Khan to cancel our betrothal. But in the end, not only I drove mother and Rong’er to their injustice death, but did I make the Great Khan, Tuolei, and Huazheng happy? The Seven Heroes of Jiangnan, my seven masters, and benevolent master Hong, are all heroic people of honor, yet none of them ended up enjoying the fruit of their good deeds. Ouyang Feng and Qiu Qianren do not uphold justice and righteousness, yet they live free and unrestrained. Is there any justice in this world? Can ‘lao tian ye’ [the Heaven, God] really see?”

One day he arrived at a small town in Jinan prefecture, Shandong province. He stopped by a restaurant to drink some wine. He had just drunk three cups when suddenly a man rushed in, pointed his finger to Guo Jing and cursed him, “Barbarian thief, you have destroyed my home and killed my family; I must kill you!” While saying that his fist flew toward Guo Jing’s face.

Guo Jing was startled, he turned his left hand around and caught his hand, gently twisted it; and the man fell tumbling down. Apparently that man did not know martial art at all. Guo Jing did not have any intention to harm him; he felt really bad that he had caused that man to fall down and bleed from his head. Hastily he held out his hand to raise that man up, saying, “Brother, you must have mistaken me for others!”

That man was bawling and kept cursing him, “Barbarian thief!” Dozens more men came from outside and start kicking and hitting Guo Jing for no reason at all. After pondering about the dire consequences of using martial art, Guo Jing had made a decision not to harm others using his martial art skill. Besides, these people were neither known to him nor did they know any martial arts; they were attacking him randomly. Hence he only evaded to the east and dodged to the west, but did not fight back at all. However, there were more and more people coming in from outside; the restaurant was small, so against his will Guo Jing had to taste some fists and kicks nonetheless.

He was about to use his strength to shove his way out of the restaurant when suddenly somebody loudly called from outside, “Jing’er! What are you doing here?”

Guo Jing raised his head up and saw the person calling was wearing a Taoist robe, with a long white beard; it was none other than the Changchun Zi [Eternal Spring] Qiu Chuji. Guo Jing was delighted, “Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest Qiu],” he called, “These people are hitting me for no reason at all.”

Qiu Chuji pushed his arms out and opened up a way for Guo Jing to escape; he pulled Guo Jing out of the restaurant. The people rushed out to attack them, but Qiu and Guo, two people faced them while moving backward step by step. Once outside Guo Jing whistled to call his red horse and not too long afterwards two people riding on one horse sped out of the town and disappeared into the wilderness.

Guo Jing again told about how those town people without any reason pounced on him and beat him. Qiu Chuji smiled, “You are dressed as a Mongolian; they thought you are a Barbarian Mongolian.” Then he proceeded by telling Guo Jing how the Mongolians and the Jins had violent battles in the Shandong province. The local people had been under the Jin’s oppression for a long time, they raised arm to help the Mongolians. Who would have thought that the Mongolian’s officers and soldiers were as oppressive and tyrannical as the Jins were; they destroyed, they killed, they took captive and they plundered; they made the lives of the common people miserable beyond description. When a Mongolian army was passing through, the people did not dare to do anything, but if there was a lone Mongolian officer or soldier left behind, usually he would be killed by the people.

“Why did you let them beat you?” Qiu Chuji asked, “Just look at you, bruised and swollen all over.”

Guo Jing heaved a deep sigh and then told him how Genghis Khan had issued a secret order to him to attack the south, and how his mother had died because of it. He told Priest Qiu everything.

Qiu Chuji was shocked, “If Genghis Khan is going to attack our Great Song, then we must go south immediately to inform the government to guard against this invasion,” he said. Guo Jing shook his head, “What good will that bring? The result would be corpses of officers and soldiers from both sides piling up as high as a mountain; innocent people’s families being broken and killed.”

“But if the Song perishes under the Mongolia, the common people will suffer even more,” Qiu Chuji said, “An endless hardship!” “Qiu Daozhang,” Guo Jing said, “There are so many things I am not able to think through; I want to ask you to give me directions.” Qiu Chuji pulled his hand, led him to a big locust tree and took him sitting underneath it. “Speak to me!” he said.

Guo Jing immediately poured out what had been troubling his heart these past few days; how he felt that his skill in martial art only brought harm to other people. Finally he sighed and said, “Therefore, disciple has decided not to fight with anybody for the rest of my life. I wish I could forget everything I know about martial arts, only an old habit will always come back. I was careless today, and made someone bleed from his head.”

Qiu Chuji shook his head, “Jing’er, your thinking is incorrect,” he said, “Dozens of years ago, the Wulin world secret manual, the Nine Yin Manual, appeared for the first time. I don’t know how many warriors of the Jianghu had died from fighting over this book. Afterwards at the Sword Meet of Huashan [Mount Hua] my master Chongyang Zhenren [Sage, lit. true/real man, a respectful term to address a Taoist priest] had defeated everybody and took possession of the manual. Initially he intended to destroy the book, but later on he said, ‘Water can carry the boat, but can also capsize it; be it fortune or calamity, in the end it depends on the person who uses it.’ In the end he decided to preserve the manual. Every talent in the world, whether it is ‘wen’ [literature] or ‘wu’ [martial art]; a strong army or a sophisticated device, not a single one of them does not benefit mankind; but the opposite is also true, every single one of them has the potential to bring calamity to the world. As long as you have a good heart, the stronger your martial art, the better it is for you. Why would you want to forget it?”

Guo Jing hesitated for a moment before saying, “What Daozhang said was not wrong, but among the current Jianghu heroes; the Eastern Heretic, the Western Poison, the Southern Emperor and the Northern Beggar have the strongest martial arts. Disciple has been thinking carefully; to reach the martial art level of these four experts one must undergoes difficulties, to the point of almost impossible, hardship and suffering. Yet even if one is able to endure all that, what good would that be for people other than oneself?”

Qiu Chuji was silent for a moment before answering, “Huang Yaoshi is an eccentric man; although outwardly he shows anger to the world and detests mundane affair, but in his heart there is an unspeakable bitterness. He acts as he pleases, he does not have any consideration toward other people. I won’t take him as an example. Ouyang Feng does all kinds of evil; we don’t need to talk about him. Emperor Duan is compassionate and benevolent; if he stayed on the throne he would be able to benefit the common people. It’s a pity that because of personal resentment over a tiny, tiny affair he withdrew from society and lives in seclusion; he can’t be regarded as great man with great courage. Only Hong Qigong, Hong Bangzhu [Clan Leader Hong] is left who is a great hero to uphold justice; always helping those in distress. He has my full admiration. The second Sword Meet of Mount Hua is right around the corner; I think there might be someone who can exceed Hong Bangzhu in term of martial art. But I believe the people will elect him as the Number One in the Wulin World.”

Hearing the four characters ‘Sword Meet of Mount Hua’, Guo Jing’s heart shivered. “Is my benevolent master completely healed from his injury? Do you think the Senior is going to attend the meeting at Mount Hua?” he asked.

“After returning from the west, I have never seen Hong Bangzhu,” Qiu Chuji said, “But whether he will take part in the Sword Meet or not, I think he will go to Mount Hua. Actually, I am passing through this place on my way over there; why don’t you come with me to take a look?”

These past several days Guo Jing was very downhearted; he lost interest in, and loathed all kinds of, fighting. He shook his head and said, “Disciple is not coming, please forgive me.”

“Where are you going?” Qiu Chuji asked.

Guo Jing awkwardly said, “Disciple does not know; I’ll go wherever my feet lead me!”

Qiu Chuji could see that his face had lost its color, he looked so ghastly; like someone who was just recovered from a severe illness. Qiu Chuji was very concerned, but no matter how he persuaded, Guo Jing simply shook his head and did not say anything. Qiu Chuji thought, “He would normally listen to Hong Bangzhu; if he goes to Mount Hua, then master and disciple will see each other, his spirit might be aroused and be back to his old kind self. But how can I convince him to go?” All of a sudden a thought came into his mind, “Jing’er,” he said, “If you really want to forget the martial art you have already learned, I think I might have a way.”

“Really?” Guo Jing said.

“I know someone who had accidentally learned the Nine Yin Manual’s excellent martial arts,” Qiu Chuji said, “But later on he realized that he had broken his own promise, he had betrayed something entrusted to him; in the end he strived to forget the skills he had learned. If you really want to follow his example, you must talk to him.”

Guo Jing jumped up immediately. “Right!” he exclaimed, “It’s Zhou Botong, Zhou Dage [big brother Zhou]!” But suddenly he remembered that Zhou Botong was Qiu Chuji’s martial uncle, while he casually called him big brother; he felt he was usurping Qiu Chuji’s seniority by one generation. He could not restrain from feeling really awkward.

Qiu Chuji simply smiled slightly, he said, “Zhou Shishu [Martial Uncle Zhou] has never had any regard of anybody’s seniority; you can call him whatever you like, I don’t mind a bit.” “Where is he?” Guo Jing asked.

“I am sure Zhou Shishu will not miss the meeting at Mount Hua,” Qiu Chuji replied. “Very well,” Guo Jing said, “In that case I will come with Daozhang to Mount Hua.”

Two men traveled together to the nearest town ahead then Guo Jing took out some silvers and bought a steed for Qiu Chuji to ride. They went riding to the west, and in less than one day arrived at the foot of Mount Hua.

This Mount Hua was one of the five mountains called the Western Mountains; people of the ancient time equate these five mountains with five scriptures. They said Mount Hua was like ‘chun qiu’ [spring and autumn period – 770-476 BC], possessed the same lethality as the Wei kingdom. Among the mountains in the world, the ruggedness of Mount Hua was matchless.

Two men arrived at the ‘shan sun ting’ [mountain grass pavilion] at the southern entrance of Mount Hua. Next to this pavilion they saw twelve big dragon rattans, so called because their trunks and branches intertwined each other resembled flying dragons.

Looking at these ancient twelve rattans with their branches rising up to the sky, suddenly the ‘fei long zai tian’ [dragon flies to the sky] came into Guo Jing’s mind. Following the Nine Yin Manual principles, these twelve rattans formed different stances of the dragon postures, creating twelve grand stances where the move might be executed. From being lost in thought, suddenly he woke up with a start, “I was hoping I could forget the martial art I already learned, how I could think about creating a new move to defeat and to kill others? I have fallen too deep, truly I am incorrigible.”

Suddenly Qiu Chuji voice was heard, “Mount Hua is our Taoist holy mountain; these twelve dragon rattans were supposedly planted by ‘chen tuan lao zu’, [ancestor Chen Tuan].

“Chen tuan lao zu?” Guo Jing asked, “Was he the deity who slept for many years without waking up?”

“Chen tuan lao zu was born toward the latter part of the Tang Dynasty,” Qiu Chuji explained, “During the Five Dynasties period: Liang, Tang, Jin, Han, Zhou, every time he heard the kingdom changed ruler, he was always worried and not happy; so he closed his door and refused to come out. Hence the people said he was sleeping for many years. Actually he was just troubled by the world’s anxiety, that the common people always suffered hardships; that’s why he was not willing to go out. Finally he heard ‘Song Dai Zu’ [the great ancestor of Song Dynasty] rose up to the throne; he laughed heartily and in his happiness he fell from the donkey’s back, saying that the world henceforth would be peaceful. Song Dai Zu was kind and had a deep affection toward the common people; his contribution was truly not a few.”

“If Chen tuan lao zu were born today, he would unavoidably close his door and sleep for exhausting years and tiring months,” Guo Jing commented.

Qiu Chuji heaved a deep sigh and said, “Mongolians rule in the north, deliberately will invade the south. It’s a pity the Song Dynasty’s princes and ministers are muddle-headed idiots; they have eyes but cannot see the problem we are facing. But we are real men, although we realize we are helpless, still we need to fight. Even though Chen tuan lao zu was an honorable person, he hid himself whenever the world was in trouble; that was a bad example of chivalry.”

Guo Jing silently agreed.

Two men had to leave their steeds at the foot of the mountain. They continued on foot; slowly climbing through the ‘tao hua ping’ [peach blossom plain], crossing the ‘xi yi xia’ [lit. rare barbarian box, I don’t know what it is], climbing ‘sha meng ping’ [grassy dream plain]. The further they went, the more dangerous the terrain became. After reaching ‘xi xuan men’ [western mysterious gate] they had to ascend holding on to an iron chain. Utilizing their lightness kungfu, two men climbed up rapidly. After about seven ‘li’s, they reached the ‘qing ping’ [green plain]. Beyond this plain they saw a row of rocks that looked like they were truncated. Toward the north of this wall there was a big rock blocking the pathway.

“This rock is called ‘hui xin shi’ [lit. turn-around heart stone],” Qiu Chuji said, “Beyond this stone the pathway is getting more rugged and dangerous than ever. Casual travelers are advised to turn back here.”

In the distant they saw a small stone pavilion. “That is the ‘du qi ting’ [gambling chess pavilion],” Qiu Chuji explained, “Legend has it that the Song Emperor, Song Dai Zu made a bet playing chess with Mister Xi Yi [the same ‘xi yi’ as in the paragraph above]. The Mount Hua was the stake. The Emperor lost, and ever since the Mount Hua territory is exempt from paying tribute.”

Guo Jing said, “Genghis Khan, the Khoresm King, the Great Jin Emperor, the Great Song Emperor; seemed like they are all gambling with this world as the stake.”

Qiu Chuji nodded. “Absolutely,” he said, “Jing’er, looks to me like you have done a lot of thinking lately. I can see the difference; you are no longer your muddle-headed-dumb-kid previous self.” Then he continued, “These emperors and generals view the world as their gambling stake; if they lose, not only they will lose the ‘jiang shan’ [lit. river and mountain – country/homeland], they will also lose their lives, as well as making the world a living hell for common people.”

Crossing the ‘qian chi xia’ [thousand-foot gorge], the ‘bai chi xia’ [hundred-foot gorge], they had to walk sideways. Guo Jing thought, “It will be very difficult to ward off if suddenly an enemy attack in this place.” He was just having this thought when suddenly someone shouted from ahead of them, “Qiu Chuji, we spared your life at the Misty Rain Tavern [yan yu lou]; what are you doing climbing Mount Hua?” Qiu Chuji hastily rushed ahead several steps until he reached a small cavity on the side of the cliff before he raised his head to see Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, Lingzhi Shangren [lit. upper/above man, a respectful term to address Buddhist monk], and Hou Tonghai, four people standing at the end of the pathway.

When he climbed the mountain, Qiu Chuji had expected at some point to see Ouyang Feng, Qiu Qianren and other archenemies; he thought Zhou Botong, Hong Qigong, Guo Jing and the others would meet their match. But he had never expected that Sha Tongtian and the others had the guts to climb this mountain. Although he was standing on an open space, the terrain was extremely dangerous. If he was crowded by the enemy, chances are he would fall into the tens of thousands ‘zhang’s deep canyon below.

In this critical time he did not have time to think, with a ‘shua’ sound he pulled his sword and with ‘bai hong jing tian’ [bright rainbow across the sky] he ferociously attacked Hou Tonghai. Among these four enemies, Hou Tonghai was the weakest, but he was also the closest; Qiu Chuji’s sword stance was precisely aimed to the weakest point of the enemy.

Hou Tonghai saw the sword was swift and fierce, he had no alternative, he leaned sideways to evade and lifted up his three-prong fork to block the sword. Peng Lianhu’s judge pen and Lingzhi Shangren’s copper cymbals made a converging attack with the intention of forcing Qiu Chuji to fall into the ravine below.

As Qiu Chuji’s sword made contact with Hou Tonghai’s three-prong fork, he transferred his energy to the tip of the sword and borrowing the strength, his body soared above Hou Tonghai’s head. Sparks flew everywhere as Peng Lianhu and Lingzhi Shangren’s weapon hit a rock.

Sha Tongtian had lost an arm at the Temple of the Iron Spear; by this time his wound was completely healed. Seeing his ‘shi di’ [younger martial brother] fail to block the enemy, he executed the ‘yi xing huan wei’ [altering shape changing position] technique right in front of Qiu Chuji to prevent him from running away. Qiu Chuji’s sword moved swiftly; Sha Tongtian only saw bright lights flashing around him, aiming his vital points. Sha Tongtian was dazzled and unable to fend off the sword; he was forced to move back several steps, giving Qiu Chuji an opportunity to dash forward.

Sha and Peng shouted loudly and pursued him. Qiu Chuji turned his sword around and launched several stances. At that moment Lingzhi Shangren arrived sweeping his cymbals. Three different types of weapons clashed.

Seeing Qiu Chuji’s precarious condition Guo Jing should have gone forward and help, but he felt that people who resort to violence were very bad. He loathed watching both sides fought violently; turning his head, unwilling to watch, he continued his journey, holding on to a rattan branch. Unexpectedly the path was sloping down.

While strolling leisurely two thoughts were waging war inside his mind, “Shall I help Qiu Daozhang? Or shall I stick to my commitment of not fighting anybody anymore?” The more he thought, the more confused he became. He considered, “If Qiu Daozhang is killed by Peng Lianhu and the others, how can I not blame myself? But if I did help and struck Peng Lianhu and the others that they fell into the ravine below, do they really deserve to die?”

He walked farther and farther away until he could not hear the clashing sound of the weapons anymore. He sat leaning on a rock, deep in thought. After a long time suddenly he heard a noise from behind the pine tree next to him, and a man appeared. Guo Jing turned around to see that man had white hair, but ruddy face; turned out it was ‘shen xian lao guai’ [ginseng immortal old freak] Liang Ziweng. But Guo Jing ignored him; he still sat quietly lost in thought.

Liang Ziweng was startled, he knew Guo Jing’s martial art had advanced greatly; early on he was not Guo Jing match anymore. Immediately he shrunk back behind the tree. A moment later he saw Guo Jing did not pursue, he also saw that Guo Jing looked to be absentminded, his eyebrows creased on a distressed face; he was mumbling indistinctly, like he was possessed by some kind of evil spirit. Liang Ziweng thought, “Today this kid looks so weird. Let me try provoking him.” He did not dare to approach; he picked up a pebble and threw it toward Guo Jing’s back.

Guo Jing heard the wind, but he simply leaned sideways to evade, and still did not pay any attention to Liang Ziweng. Liang Ziweng became bolder; he came out from behind the tree, came several steps closer, and called out in a soft voice, “Guo Jing, what are you doing here?”

“I am thinking,” Guo Jing replied, “If I use martial art to fight someone, do I have a good reason for it?

Liang Ziweng was stupefied and delighted at the same time, he thought, “This dumb kid has become crazier.” He approached several steps closer and said, “Hurting people is a very bad thing, of course you don’t have any reason to do it.”

“You think so?” Guo Jing said, “I really hope I can forget all the martial arts I’ve learned.”

Liang Ziweng saw Guo Jing’s eyes were gazing into the horizon with a blank look on his face; slowly he came from behind Guo Jing’s back. “I am also in the process of forgetting my own martial art, how about I lend you a helping hand to forget yours?” he softly asked.

“Fine,” Guo Jing said, “What should I do?”

“Hmm, I have and idea,” Liang Ziweng said. Both of his hands made a sudden movement and expertly grabbed two major acupoints: ‘tian zhu’ [sky pillar] on Guo Jing’s neck and ‘shen tang’ [divine hall] on his back.

Guo Jing was shocked, he felt his whole body went numb and he could not move. With a wicked grin on his face Liang Ziweng said, “Let me suck the blood out of your body, then you will forget using your martial art ever again.” Opening his mouth wide he bit into Guo Jing’s throat and sucked with all his might. He remembered how this dumb kid had sucked the valuable blood of the viper he laboriously raised so this dumb kid’s martial art had improved tremendously while his own did not make any progress; by sucking Guo Jing’s blood he hoped he would gain some benefit while venting off his anger at the same time. Actually, it had been a long time since Guo Jing drank the viper’s blood, that the effectiveness of the blood had long gone; but in his deep resentment he ignored that fact completely.

This sudden turn of event shocked Guo Jing; he felt a severe pain on his neck that he was seeing stars in his eyes. Hastily he tried to struggle free, but his two major acupoints were sealed by enemy, his whole body unexpectedly did not have the least bit of strength. He saw Liang Ziweng’s pair of eyes was red, his face looked so scary; Guo Jing felt his bite was getting harder and harder. It felt like his throat was about to be cut, then his life would left him for sure.

In desperation he did not have time to think whether it was appropriate to use martial art to resist the enemy or not; immediately he used the ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ [changing muscle forging bone] to send out internal energy from his ‘dan tian’ toward the ‘tian zhu’ and ‘shen tang’ acupoints.

Both of Liang Ziweng’s hands were holding Guo Jing extremely tight when suddenly he felt a surge of energy bursting out from within his victim’s body through the two major acupoints, his hands shook and they could not help but slip. Guo Jing lowered his head and shrank his shoulder, and then using his waist’s strength he struggled up. As a result Liang Ziweng’s body was lifted up and flung away. With a hair-rising shriek he fell into the tens of thousands ‘zhang’s deep canyon below.

His scream reverberated on the canyon walls, creating a series of terrifying echoes seemingly coming from everywhere. Guo Jing was horrified; the hair behind his back rose up involuntarily. He was in a daze for half a day before he gradually calmed down. Absent- mindedly he caressed his injured neck and only then he remembered that he had accidentally killed a man using his martial art. But he thought, “If I did not kill him, he would kill me. If I don’t have any reason to kill him, did he have any reason to kill me?” He stretched his neck trying to see into the valley below, but the canyon was so deep that he could not even see the bottom; did not know where Shen Xian Lao Guai’s body could be.

Guo Jing sat on a rock. Tearing a piece of cloth from his robe he wrapped the wound on his neck. Suddenly he was startled by a ‘bonk, bonk, bonk’ noise; it sounded like a monster was coming out from behind the cliff. He was frightened; he turned his gaze to look, turned out it was a human. But this man stood with his head on the bottom and his feet on the top; with a stone in each hand. He used those hands in place of his feet, and those ‘bonk, bonk, bonk’ noise was actually the sound of the stones knocking the mountain’s stony pathway. Guo Jing was stunned; he squatted down to take a good look at that man’s face, and he was even more surprised. That weird man was actually the Western Poison, Ouyang Feng.

Guo Jing had just received a surprise attack; seeing Ouyang Feng in this weird position he believed he was up to no good. Guo Jing retreated two steps, fully alert to guard against any potential attack. But Ouyang Feng only bent his arms and jumped on top of a big rock; standing upside down using his head as his feet, his arms stretched wide, resembled a stiff corpse.

Guo Jing’s curiosity was piqued, “Mr. Ouyang, what are you doing?” he called out.

Ouyang Feng did not answer; seemed like his mind was someplace else and he did not even hear his question.

Guo Jing withdrew several more steps to make more distance between them. He raised his left hand in front of his chest to guard against Ouyang Feng’s sudden attack; only then did he pay close attention of what Ouyang Feng was doing.

For about the time needed to drink a cup of tea Ouyang Feng stood upside down motionless. Guo Jing was more curious than ever; he wanted to see more clearly, so he stooped down and looked through his legs to see Ouyang Feng’s face was sweating profusely; he looked in pain, like he was cultivating some strange internal energy. A moment later he stretched his arm horizontally, his body started spinning like a big top, turning faster and faster until his clothes created a strong gust of wind.

“He really is practicing martial art,” Guo Jing thought, “But this kind of martial art that requires upside down position is so strange.” Further he thought that a person who practice internal energy cultivation was usually vulnerable, probably because while circulating the energy within, the body itself devoid of any defense against outside circumstances. That was the reason usually somebody, be it his master or a friend with high level of martial art skill, would stay alongside to protect that person. Moreover, they would usually find a secluded place to avoid mishap. But strangely Ouyang Feng was practicing alone without anybody to accompany him; seemingly oblivious to outside interference. It was almost time for the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua; there would be many martial art experts in attendance, with more enemies than friends to Ouyang Feng; how could he be so bold as to practice martial art alone in this place? At this time, not to mention an expert in martial art, if even an ordinary person without any martial art skill would hit or kick him, he would certainly suffer a severe internal injury.

In Guo Jing’s eyes Ouyang Feng was like a sacrificial animal on the table, ready to be butchered. If Guo Jing did not seek revenge now, what was he waiting for? Only he had just killed Liang Ziweng; he had this heavy guilty feeling in his heart. He only moved forward a couple of steps then stood still, unable to kill Ouyang Feng.

Ouyang Feng practiced for about the time needed to boil tea; he gradually slowed down until his body stopped spinning. Finally he stretched his arms and grabbed the rocks, then ‘bonk, bonk, bonk’ he went back to where he was coming from.

Guo Jing’s curiosity was really piqued, he wanted to know where Ouyang Feng was heading, and what kind of marvelous martial art he practiced by standing upside down; therefore, quietly Guo Jing followed after him.

Ouyang Feng walked using his hands, surprisingly it was not any slower than walking with his feet. He climbed to a hill peak, going higher and higher. Guo Jing followed not too far behind until they arrived at the jade-green lush, beautiful peak. He saw Ouyang Feng was heading straight into a cave and stopped in front it. Guo Jing hid himself behind a big rock; suddenly he heard Ouyang Feng sternly said, “Ha hu wen ying, xing er ji jin, si gu er. Your explanation is not right; I could not practice appropriately.”

Guo Jing was startled, at first he thought that those three lines were the Sanskrit lines from the Nine Yin Manual; but it sounded a little bit different. And then he immediately remembered that those were the lines he deliberately altered per his benevolent master Hong’s instruction on the boat. But why did Ouyang Feng suddenly recite those lines? Whom did he speak to?

He heard a crisp and clear female voice came out from the cave, “Your martial art is not adequate, of course you can’t practice appropriately. How could I explain incorrectly?” Guo Jing was so surprised that he almost cried out; it was the voice Huang Rong for whom he day and night mourned with grief. Didn’t she get killed in the desert? Was he dreaming? Was he in heaven? Or perhaps because of his deep affection he thought it was Huang Rong’s voice?

“I have practiced according to what you said, no mistake about it, but why did my ‘yi ren mai’ [appointed arteries] and ‘yang wei mai’ [positive dimension arteries] unexpectedly flow in reverse?” Ouyang Feng asked.

That female voice answered, “You didn’t want to wait, your strength is wanting.” This voice was clearly Huang Rong’s voice, Guo Jing had no doubt whatsoever. He was so surprised and happy at the same time that he became giddy and faltered, almost lost his conscience. Because of this excitement the wound on his neck was broken, blood seeped through the wrapped cloth; but he did not seem to notice it.

He heard Ouyang Feng turn angry, “By noon tomorrow the sword meet will start; how can I practice leisurely? Quickly translate the whole manual for me, don’t try to mess with me.”

At last Guo Jing understood why Ouyang Feng practiced internal energy cultivation right there; turned out he was anxious about the sword meet and wanted to get a quick result. He heard Huang Rong laugh, “You have made an agreement with my Jing Gege; he would spare your life three times in exchange of you not compelling me against my wishes. You have to wait until I am happy enough to teach you.”

Hearing her say the word ‘my Jing Gege’ a sweet, happy feeling flooded Guo Jing’s heart. He was almost unable to refrain from leaping out and shout his delight.

Ouyang Feng coldly said, “This is important, my business today takes precedence over all agreements I made in the past.” After he said that, he moved his arms, flexed his body and stood right-side up. Then he walked toward the cave in big strides.

“You are shameless!” Huang Rong called out, “I am not going to teach you!”

Ouyang Feng grinned wickedly, “I want to see if you are going to teach me or not,” he said in low voice.

Guo Jing heard Huang Rong cry out, “Aiyo!” then he heard Ouyang Feng’s cold laugh, followed by a sound of ripping clothes. At a moment like this Guo Jing did not have any time to think whether it was appropriate to fight anybody using his martial art; he leaped out and shouted, “Rong’er! I am here!” With the left palm guarding in front of his body he rushed into the cave.

Ouyang Feng’s left hand was grabbing Huang Rong’s bamboo stick, while his right hand was just about to grab her left arm. Huang Rong launched the ‘bang tiau lai quan’ [carrying a skin-diseased dog on a stick] by slanting her stick in front of her body and with a jerk pulled the stick from Ouyang Feng’s hand. Ouyang Feng shouted and was about to continue his attack when suddenly he heard Guo Jing’s voice outside.

Ouyang Feng was the grand master of his martial art school; he had never broken his words to anybody. This time it was in his desperation that he used force against Huang Rong; when suddenly Guo Jing arrived. His face turned beet red, he was ashamed of breaking his own agreement. He flicked his sleeve to cover his own face then fast as lightning he darted through Guo Jing’s side, went out of the cave in a hurry and in a moment not even his shadow was to be seen.

Guo Jing rushed forward to grip Huang Rong’s hands, he called out, “I almost died thinking about you!” He was so agitated that his whole body shivered.

Huang Rong pulled her hands out and coldly said, “Who are you? Why are you holding my hands?” Guo Jing was stunned. “I … I am Guo Jing. You … you are not dead. I … I …” he stuttered.

“I don’t know you!” Huang Rong cut him off; and then she went out the cave.

Guo Jing followed her outside, repeatedly bowing in front of her. “Rong’er, Rong’er, please listen to me!” he begged. “Hmm,” Huang Rong snorted, “Do you think you can call Rong’er’s name just like that? What are you?”

Guo Jing opened his mouth wide, but did not know what to say.

Huang Rong looked at him; she saw he was rather thin, his face haggard; for an instant she felt sorry for him. But immediately she remembered how he had dumped her over and over; her anger flared. She took a step forward.

Guo Jing was really anxious, he pulled her sleeve and said, “Please listen to me.” “Speak!” Huang Rong said.

“I saw your golden hair band and black sable fur coat on the marsh, I thought you …” Guo Jing said. But Huang Rong cut him off again, “Very well, you wanted me to listen to you, and I did!” She pulled her sleeve and walked away.

Guo Jing felt awkward and anxious at the same time. He knew how exceptionally mule-headed Huang Rong could be; he was afraid he might lose her again but he did not know how to express himself. Seeing her sleeve floating while she was climbing the mountain, he had no choice but silently follow.

When she came across Guo Jing earlier, Huang Rong was overwhelmed with mixed feeling. She recalled how she deliberately threw Ouyang Feng from her trail by leaving her golden hair band and her black sable fur coat on the marsh. Then heartbroken she headed back to the east. Her intention was to go back to the Peach Blossom Island to see her father; unfortunately when she reached Shandong she fell sick with nobody to care for her. On her sickbed, while her body was either feverishly hot or cold, she lamented the fact that Guo Jing was a fickle lover; she regretted that her parents had given birth to her that now she had to endure pain and sufferings. When she recovered from her illness she came across Ouyang Feng on the southern Shandong road; and was compelled to follow him to Mount Hua to explain the manual to him.

Looking back to the past she hated everything that had happened. She heard Guo Jing was following her closely. When she walked quickly, Guo Jing also walked quickly; when she slowed down, Guo Jing also slowed down. After walking for a while she turned around abruptly and shouted, “Why are you following me?”

“I will forever follow you, I will never leave you as long as I live,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong sneered, “You are the Great Khan’s son-in-law, what do you want from me, a poor little girl?” “The Great Khan has caused my mother’s death, how can I become his son-in-law?” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong was angry, her entire face turned red, “Good! I thought you still have a heart for me. Turned out the Great Khan has kicked you out! Now that you are not the Master Consort anymore you come looking for the poor little girl. Am I that cheap that you can bully me as you wish?” Speaking to this point she could not control her anger any longer and broke in uncontrollable sobs.

Seeing her bursting in tears Guo Jing was flabbergasted. He wanted to say some comforting words, but he was tongue-tied, did not know what to say. After stayed silent for half a day he finally opened his mouth, “Rong’er, I am here. You want to hit me or kill me; you can do what you want.”

“Why would I want to hit you or kill you?” Huang Rong asked mournfully, “Let’s just say that we have known each other in vain. Please, I am asking you, stop following me.”

Seeing she was not willing to forgive him, Guo Jing’s countenance paled. With a trembling voice he asked, “What do I have to do to make you understand what’s in my heart?”

“Today you are good to me, but if tomorrow you see Huazheng Meizi or Huazheng Jiejie [elder sister], you will immediately shove me away from your brain,” Huang Rong said, “Only if you die in front of me will I believe what you said.”

The blood in Guo Jing’s chest boiled; he nodded and turned around, walked in big strides toward the cliff nearby. It was actually Mount Hua’s most dangerous place, called the ‘she shen ya’ [to give one’s life cliff]; whoever jumped from this place would certainly meet a cruel death.

Knowing his strong-willed temper well, Huang Rong realized Guo Jing was capable of doing what he said he would do. Hastily she dashed forward to grab his clothes. Her hand pulled hard and she jumped over Guo Jing’s shoulder that a moment later she was the one standing at the edge of the cliff. She was angry and anxious at the same time; with tears in her eyes she said, “Fine! I know you don’t care about me one bit. I spoke thoughtless words out of anger and you didn’t miss that opportunity. I am telling you: you don’t need to get angry with me; just don’t see me anymore.”

Huang Rong’s body trembled, her face was snow-white; she stood on the edge of the cliff, leaning against ice-covered rock. She looked like a white ‘cha hua’ [camellia?] gently swaying in the wind.

Because he did not care about his own life, Guo Jing had exerted his strength to jump into the canyon below; but now seeing Huang Rong on the cliff edge he was afraid she might lost her footing. “Come over here,” he hastily said.

Huang Rong could hear the affection in his voice, she was unable to restrain from feeling sad; she cried, “Who wants to hear your fake words? I was sick in Shandong, nobody cared for me; you didn’t even come looking for me. I was captured by that old scoundrel Ouyang Feng and was unable to escape; you didn’t come to rescue me. My mother did not want me; she died and left me to fend for myself. My father did not want me; he did not come looking for me. Worst of all, you obviously did not want me either! There is nobody in this world wants me, nobody loves me!” While saying that she stomped her feet and cried loudly; sounded like she was releasing all anger, sadness, and frustration pent-up for several days.

Guo Jing’s heart was overwhelmed with love and affection, yet he realized what she said was not wrong; the more he listened to her, the more he hated himself.

A cold wind blew, Huang Rong felt cold, her body trembled a little bit. Guo Jing took out his outer coat and was about to drape it across her shoulder when suddenly someone shouted from the side of the cliff, “Who has such guts, dared to bully my Miss Huang?” A man with white beard and long hair appeared, climbing up the cliff. It was none other than the Old Urchin Zhou Botong.

Guo Jing’s attention was focused on Huang Rong; he did not care who came toward them. Huang Rong was not in the mood to joke around, she shouted, “Old Urchin, I told you to kill Qiu Qianren. Where is his head?”

Zhou Botong giggled, he did not know how to answer her; so before she pursued further, he tried to shift the blame, “Miss Huang, who made you angry? The Old Urchin will vent your anger for you.”

Huang Rong pointed her finger to Guo Jing, “Who else if not him?” she said.

Zhou Botong only knew he had to win Huang Rong’s heart, so without saying anything his hand moved; once with the back of his hand, then another with his palm, ‘Slap! Slap!’ he whacked Guo Jing’s ears twice.

Guo Jing’s mind was someplace else, he did not guard against any attack; the Old Urchin’s hand was rather heavy, Guo Jing’s vision turned black and his cheeks were swollen red.

“Miss Huang, is that enough?” Zhou Botong asked, “If not enough I will beat him some more.”

Seeing Guo Jing’s face was swollen with red five-finger print on each cheek, Huang Rong’s anger turned into affection; and her affection toward Guo Jing turned into anger toward Zhou Botong. “I am angry at him, what does it have to do with you? Who told you to beat him up?” she angrily said, “I told you to kill Qiu Qianren, why didn’t you do what I told you?”

Zhou Botong stuck out his tongue, could not answer her question; he said in his heart, “Turned out in wanting to beat a horse fart the Old Urchin has beaten the horse’s hoof instead.” In that difficult situation he suddenly heard from behind the cliff some noise of weapons clashing and indistinct voices of people fighting. He thought if he did not slip away right now, he would not get another chance; he called out immediately, “Most probably that old Qiu Qianren has arrived. I am going to kill him at once.” Before he finished speaking, he had disappeared behind the cliff in a flash.

Actually, if it was really Qiu Qianren, Zhou Botong would not dare to even come near to him. That day Zhou Botong blindly fought with Qiu Qianren, Ouyang Feng and Guo Jing inside the stone house in the western region; Guo Jing escaped and Ouyang Feng followed not too long afterwards. Then Qiu Qianren finally found an opportunity to run away. Zhou Botong did not give up chasing him until Qiu Qianren was exhausted. Qiu Qianren was furious and desperate; he was the clan leader of a big clan in Wulin world, and he was forced to run away from the enemy, he felt really humiliated. He thought he would be better off killing himself rather than falling into the enemy’s hands and suffer further humiliation. He caught a glimpse of several vipers on the sand and stone by the road side. He knew this kind of viper was very poisonous; once he got bitten, the whole body would be numb immediately and he would die without too much pain. Therefore, he caught one viper and held it by pinching the snake at seven inches from the head; he called out, “Zhou Botong the old thief, look here!”

He was about to let the viper bite his own hand; but who would have thought that Zhou Botong was extremely afraid of snakes that he cried out, turned around and ran away. Qiu Qianren was startled, but after half a day, he realized Zhou Botong was afraid of his snake. Unexpectedly the situation was reversed to his benefit. With his left hand he caught another viper, and shouted loudly he gave Zhou Botong a chase.

Zhou Botong was terrified, he ran like crazy. Qiu Qianren was known as the ‘tie zhang shui shang piao’ [iron palm floating on the water]; his lightness kungfu was superior from Zhou Botong’s. If he was not scared of Zhou Botong, he would have caught up with him early on.

Two men chasing each other noisily until the day turned dark. Zhou Botong ran with all his might, Qiu Qianren was actually looking for an opportunity to escape; he was secretly amused and pretended to chase Zhou Botong seriously. On the second day Zhou Botong found a horse which he quickly mounted and rode back into the east; afraid that Qiu Qianren might overtake him.

Seeing Zhou Botong sneaked out, Huang Rong cast a sidelong glance toward Guo Jing, sighed, and lowered her head without saying anything.

“Rong’er,” Guo Jing called.

“Hmm,” Huang Rong lightly uttered.

Guo Jing wanted to apologize and asked for her forgiveness, but realizing he was clumsy, he was afraid he might say something wrong and actually stirred up her anger. Two people stood side by side in the wind; suddenly Huang Rong sneezed. Immediately Guo Jing took his coat off and spread it over Huang Rong’s body. Huang Rong lowered her head, seemingly oblivious to him. Suddenly they heard Zhou Botong’s loud laughter, followed by his shouts, “Wonderful! Wonderful!”

Huang Rong held out her hand, touching Guo Jing’s hand, “Jing Gege, let’s take a look,” she said with a low voice. Guo Jing was so happy that tears rolled down his cheeks, he could not say anything. Huang Rong wiped out the tears with her sleeve; she laughed and said, “You have tears on your face; also fingerprints on your cheeks. People will say I beat you until you cry.” Her smile was so graceful; signifying the two of them had been reconciled. After this incident, actually the bond between them grew deeper.

Hand in hand the two of them walked down the cliff; they saw Zhou Botong was bending over with laughter, he looked so proud of himself. Qiu Chuji stood on the side with a sword in his hand. Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, Lingzhi Shangren, and Hou Tonghai, four people were seen with weapons in their hands in various postures; some were attacking, some were retreating or eluding an attack, but they all looked like motionless wooden statues. Turned out their acupoints had been sealed by Zhou Botong.

Zhou Botong said, “The other day I made some pills from the dirt on my body and gave them to you. But you stinky thieves are actually crafty and smart; as soon as you found out they were not poisonous, you did not want to obey your grandfather anymore. Hmm, hmm … how about today?”

Even though he managed to overpower these four men, but actually he had no idea what to do with them. Hence, as soon as he saw Guo Jing and Huang Rong walked over he said, “Miss Huang, I present these four stinky thieves to you!”

“What do I want to do with them?” Huang Rong said, “Hmm, you don’t want to kill them, you also don’t want to release them. You subdued these four stinky thieves, yet don’t have any idea what to do with them. Call me ‘Good Elder Sister’ three times, I will teach you what to do.”

Zhou Botong was delighted; immediately he called, “Good Elder Sister!” three times; each time he added a cupping of his fists. Huang Rong pursed her lips and laughed. Pointing her finger to Peng Lianhu she said, “Search his pocket.”

Zhou Botong immediately complied; from Peng Lianghu’s body he took out a ring with poisonous needle on it, and two bottles of antidotes.

“He had once used this needle to prick your Martial Nephew Ma Yu, now prick him several times with that same needle,” Huang Rong said.

Peng Lianhu and the others could hear everything clearly, they were so frightened that they felt their souls were leaving their bodies; but their acupoints were sealed, they could not move. They felt severe pain since each of them was pricked several times by Zhou Botong.

“The antidote is in your hand, whatever you want them to do, I want to see if they will dare to defy,” Huang Rong said.

Zhou Botong was delighted; he rubbed some dirt from his body and mixed them with the antidote, he made some pills from the mixture and gave the pills to Qiu Chuji. He said, “You take these four stinky thieves as prisoners; take them to Mount Zhongnan, imprison them at the Chongyang Palace for twenty years. If they behave well along the way, give each of them one of my wonder pill; otherwise let them enjoy the poison. This is called taking consequences for their own actions. Show no mercy!”

Qiu Chuji bowed and complied.

Huang Rong laughed, “Old Urchin, what you said was very reasonable. I haven’t seen you for a year and look how far you have progressed!”

Zhou Botong was very pleased with himself, he unsealed Peng Lianhu and the others’ acupoints and said, “You go to the Chongyang Palace, stay there meditating your lives for twenty years. If you are really willing to repent, you might still be able to live as good people in the future. But if you don’t want to repent, hmmm … just know that our Quanzhen people are experts in killing people without batting an eye; we can torture without creasing an eyebrow; we can make you four stinky thieves into meatballs and everybody can come and eat you. By that time I want to see what other trick you have in your sleeve?”

Peng Lianhu and the others did not dare to say anything; they only nodded and mumbled their consents. Qiu Chuji stifled his laughter; he bade Zhou Botong farewell, then with a sword in his hand herded four people walking down the mountain.

Huang Rong laughed, “Old Urchin, when did you learn to teach others? The front part of your speech made a lot of sense, but the latter part was a lot of nonsense.”

Zhou Botong looked up to the sky and laughed; but suddenly he saw toward his left there was a flashing while light. Apparently it was a weapon reflecting the sunlight. “Well, what is that?” he called out.

Jing and Rong lifted their heads to see, but the flashing light was gone. Zhou Botong was afraid Huang Rong would raise Qiu Qianren’s matter to him, he quickly said, “Let me take a look.” And he flew to the nearby peak.

Jing and Rong two people had a lot to talk; they looked for a cave and poured out their hearts’ content to each other. They talked and talked until the sun disappeared behind the western peak; still there were more to talk about. Guo Jing took some dried food from his backpack and gave some to Huang Rong.

Huang Rong ate and smiled, “That old scoundrel Ouyang Feng compelled me to explain to him the Nine Yin Manual; his source was the one you wrote randomly, so I also gave him a random explanation. He accepted it as real, and he trained hard on it for several months. I told him that this type of martial art has to be practiced upside down; he really turned head over heels training diligently. He managed to reverse the whole body passage through which vital energy circulates. It was really not easy; his ‘yin wei’ [negative dimension], ‘yang wei’ [positive dimension], yin and yang; four main arteries are flowing in reverse. I don’t know how he will look like if his entire system flows in reverse.” Having said that she giggled.

Guo Jing was also smiling, “No wonder I saw him upside down in the middle of the road,” he said, “It was really not easy to do.”

“You are coming to Mount Hua; are you going to join the contest to win the title Number One Martial Artist of the World?” Huang Rong asked.

“Rong’er, why are you teasing me?” Guo Jing said, “I am here to ask Zhou Dage on how I can forget the martial arts I have already learned.” And then he told Huang Rong everything he had pondered in his heart these past several days.

Huang Rong leaned her head slightly and thought for a moment. “Ay! It’s good if we can forget it,” she said, “The more we train, the stronger our martial art become; but actually our heart is not getting happier. I wish we were just like little children who don’t know anything; nothing burdened our minds, no worry, no anxiety.” She forgot that as one grew older, the more hardship and anxiety one would have to face; it had nothing to do with whether one’s martial art skill was high or not.

Huang Rong continued, “I heard Ouyang Feng saying that tomorrow is the sword meet day; I am sure my father will come to this mountain. You said you are not going to join the contest; how about we think of something to help my father win the title?”

“Rong’er,” Guo Jing said, “It’s not that I don’t want to help you, but I think in term of conduct, Benevolent Master Hong is superior to your father.”

Originally Huang Rong was leaning against Guo Jing’s body, but as she heard him saying her father was not good, she pushed him away in anger. Guo Jing was startled, he was confused. But suddenly Huang Rong laughed, “Hmm, actually Benevolent Master Hong’s treatment to us was not bad. Let’s just not help any of them, what do you think?”

“Both your father and Benevolent Master Hong are honorable warriors; they won’t like it if we secretly help them,” Guo Jing said. “Fine! Now you are saying that I am sly and crafty, that I am a wicked traitor coward?” Huang Rong said pulling up her face.

“I am sorry,” Guo Jing said, “I am a fool, always say wrong things and provoke you to anger.” His face looked really terrified. Huang Rong stifled her laughter, “I don’t know how many more times I am going to be mad at you.”

Guo Jing was perplexed; he scratched his head and looked at her with blank expression.

“If you don’t dump me anymore, we will have many days to be together. I really don’t care how many more times you are going to say stupid things,” Huang Rong said.

Guo Jing was ecstatic, he gripped her hands tight and earnestly said, “How can I dump you? How can I?”

“It was because the princess didn’t want you that naturally you have no choice but looking for me, a poor little girl,” Huang Rong said.

What Huang Rong said had brought back a flood of sad memories into Guo Jing’s mind; he remembered his mother’s tragic death in the desert, he looked so dispirited and was silent. It was a new moon, silver light like water shone on them. Huang Rong saw his dejected countenance and realized she had offended him deeply; she quickly tried to change the subject. “Jing Gege, let us not talk about past matters. Being together with you like this makes my heart so happy. How about I let you kiss my cheek?”

Guo Jing’s entire face turned red; indeed he did not dare to kiss her. Huang Rong flashed a captivating smile; she was fully aware that she had embarrassed both Guo Jing and herself, so she changed the subject again, “On the sword meet tomorrow, who do you say will win?” she asked.

“That is really difficult to say,” Guo Jing replied, “I wonder if Reverend Yideng is coming?”

“The reverend has entered emptiness; he would not want to fight over empty reputation,” Huang Rong reasoned.

Guo Jing nodded his agreement, “I think so too. Your father, Benevolent Master Hong, Big Brother Zhou, Qiu Qianren and Ouyang Feng, five people; each one is the grandmaster of their respective school, each one has their own unique skill. I am just wondering if Benevolent Master Hong has recovered from his injury. Can his skill level back to where it was?” Remembering his master Guo Jing was saddened.

“Reasonably speaking, the Old Urchin’s martial art is the strongest,” Huang Rong said, “However, if he does not use the martial art from the Nine Yin Manual, then he is still inferior to the other four.”

Two people talked until Huang Rong felt tired; then she leaned on Guo Jing’s bosom and fell asleep. Guo Jing was also weary and was dozing off when suddenly he heard footsteps approaching. Two dark shadows, one in front of the other, were rushing over the cliff. Those two people’s clothes were fluttering in the wind, they were running very fast. From their footwork, looked like the one in the front was the Old Urchin Zhou Botong, and the one pursuing him was surprisingly Qiu Qianren. Guo Jing did not know that Qiu Qianren had used vipers to scare Zhou Botong off; he was baffled, in the western region Qiu Qianren was running away for his life because of Zhou Botong, how come the situation was reversed now? Lightly he nudged Huang Rong and whispered in her ear, “Look!”

Huang Rong raised her head and saw under the moonlight Zhou Botong eloped to the east and escaped to the west; did not dare to face the enemy at all. Zhou Botong was heard shouting, “Old thief surnamed Qiu, I have somebody here who is an expert in catching viper; you’d better run away as quick as you can!”

Qiu Qianren laughed, “Do you think I am a three-year old kid?” he said.

“Guo Xiongdi [Brother Guo], Miss Huang! Come and help me, please!” Zhou Botong shouted. Guo Jing was about to leap out, but Huang Rong pushed his chest back, “Don’t move!” she hissed.

Zhou Botong had run around in circles yet did not see Jing and Rong two people come out, he started to curse, “Stinky Kid, Crafty Girl, if you don’t come out, I am going to curse your ancestors to the eighteenth generation.”

Huang Rong stood up and laughed, “I don’t want to come out, curse if you can.”

Zhou Botong saw the vipers in Qiu Qianren’s hands lifted their heads high with their tongues stuck out; he was so scared that his knees turned into jelly. “Miss Huang, please come, please come. What about if I curse my own ancestors to the eighteenth generation?” he begged.

Qiu Qianren was shocked to see Jing and Rong two people were standing nearby. Quickly he cooked up some ideas to slip away; otherwise if those three people ganged up against him, definitely things would not go well for him. Tomorrow would be another story; he would fight each of them on a one-to-one battle, he was not afraid of any of them. He started to move his feet, but before running away he flung the vipers toward Zhou Botong’s face.

Zhou Botong wielded his sleeve in panic, he stepped aside to elude; suddenly there was a light plopping sound and he felt something cold fell on his neck, straight through his collar into his back. That something wiggled and bounced around inside his clothes; it felt slippery. He was so scared, it felt like his soul was leaving his body. “I am dying, I am dying!” he cried. He did not dare to put his hands into his clothes to pull the ‘snakes’ out; he only jumped around wildly. Suddenly he felt the ‘snake’ bit him in the chest; he thought he really died this time, his whole body tingled with numbness and he fell down to the ground.

Jing and Rong two people were shocked, they quickly leaped forward to help. Seeing Zhou Botong suddenly fall down, Qiu Qianren was also surprised; he was about to seek a way to go down the mountain when suddenly a black shadow appeared from among the trees. That shadow coldly said, “Old thief Qiu, today you can’t run away anymore.”

That person’s back was facing the moon, so Qiu Qianren could not see that person’s face clearly. Qiu Qianren felt a chill creep up his back. “Who are you?” he barked.

Zhou Botong was lying on the ground, bedazzled. He felt he would soon be gone to the underworld; but suddenly he felt someone helped him up. “Master Zhou, don’t be afraid, that is not a snake,” he heard that person said. Zhou Botong was startled, he quickly stood up, but that cold thing on his back started to bounce around again; he jumped around and shouted madly, “It is biting me, it’s a snake, it’s a snake!”

“It’s a ‘jin wa wa’ [golden baby doll, see Chapter 29] fish, not a snake,” that person said. By now Jing and Rong two people could see clearly that person’s appearance; turned out it was the Fisherman from the Fisherman, Woodcutter, Farmer, and Scholar, four main disciples of Reverend Yideng. They saw him stretching out his arm and took a ‘jin wa wa’ from Zhou Botong’s clothes.

Turned out that fisherman saw a pair of ‘jin wa wa’ in a creek nearby; he caught them and kept them in his bosom. One of them slipped and jumped high into a tree; as luck had it, it fell down inside Zhou Botong’s collar. That ‘jin wa wa’ did not bite, but Zhou Botong was so scared of snakes that he imagined this cold and slippery thing was actually a viper biting his back. If the Fisherman was one step late, Zhou Botong might pass out of fright.

Zhou Botong opened his eyes and saw the fisherman; but he was still in shock. He knew he had met this person before, but he could not remember who it was. He turned his head to see Qiu Qianren was walking step-by-step backward, while the black shadow in front of him walked step-by-step forward, slowly approaching. Zhou Botong was a little bit relaxed but then he was startled and frightened out of his wits; he saw clearly that the black shadow was precisely the Concubine Liu Ying Gu from the Dali country’s royal palace.

Qiu Qianren was led to believe at the present time only Zhou Botong’s martial art was superior to his. If he managed to scare Zhou Botong away with his snakes, then on the sword meet the next day he was certain he would have a great chance to come out the winner. Unexpectedly on the eve of the sword meet Ying Gu appeared. That day on the ‘qing long tan’ [green dragon shore] she madly fought him; he thought that if this granny entangled him in another fight while his enemies were standing on the side; his life would be in grave danger. But then he heard she hissed with a throaty voice, “Give me back my son’s life!”

Qiu Qianren’s heart turned cold; he thought that that night when he entered the royal palace and injured her son in his attempt to force Emperor Duan to waste his strength he had disguised himself carefully. Who would have thought that the emperor did not save the child’s life, and now she had somehow learned the truth? He forced a smile and said, “Crazy Granny, why are you bothering me?”

“Give me back my son’s life!” Ying Gu called out.

“What son?” Qiu Qianren asked, “You son died, it has nothing to do with me.”

“Hmm, that night I did not see your face, but I remember your laughter,” Ying Gu said, “You laugh, now! Laugh! Laugh!”

Qiu Qianren saw her stretching both hands to pounce on him; he withdrew two steps, slightly leaned his body to the side, then his left palm slapped his right, and his right palm swept diagonally to strike Ying Gu’s abdomen. It was the fiercest one of his thirteen stances Iron Palms, called the ‘yin yang gui yi’ [negative and positive converge into one].

Ying Gu realized the fierceness of this attack; she used the Loach Maneuver to evade. Who would have thought that the enemy’s strike was so swift that before she could even move her feet, his palm was already less than half a foot from her body. Ying Gu felt a stab of pain in her heart; knowing that her hope of seeking revenge was shattered. Disregarding his palm, she jumped forward with the intention of grabbing his body so that both of them would fall down into the canyon below. Suddenly she heard a gust of wind and a fist cut like a knife in front of her. Just before his palm reached its target, Qiu Qianren was forced to retract his arm and parry that incoming fist. He was angry, “Old Urchin, it’s you again!”

When Zhou Botong saw the danger threatening Ying Gu, he used the skill he learned from the Nine Yin Manual to its fullest extend to defeat the Iron Palm stance. Zhou Botong did not dare to look straight to Ying Gu; putting his back to her he said, “Ying Gu, you are not this old scoundrel’s match. Quickly go! I will go too!”

He was about to fly down the mountain when suddenly Ying Gu called out, “Zhou Botong, why don’t you avenge your son?” Zhou Botong was dumbstruck. “What? My son?”

“Exactly,” Ying Gu said, “Your son is killed by Qiu Qianren.”

Zhou Botong still did not know that his affair with Ying Gu had resulted in they having a child. His mind was muddled; he was at lost. He turned his head to see that there were several more people standing next to Ying Gu; other than Guo Jing and Huang Rong, there were Reverend Yideng and his four disciples.

At that time Qiu Qianren had walked away from the edge of the cliff less than three feet, suddenly he saw in front of him a group of formidable enemies while the terrain they were on was really dangerous. He knew he was facing a grave danger. He clapped his hands and boldly said, “I am climbing the Mount Hua to fight over the ‘Number One Martial Artist in the World’ title. Hmm, hmm … all of you gang up to get rid of a powerful opponent. It’s truly despicable!”

Zhou Botong thought what this old thief said was reasonable, he said, “All right, I am going to wait until after the sword meet tomorrow, then I am going to take your dog life.”

Ying Gu angrily called out, “I want to seek revenge, how can I wait until tomorrow?”

Huang Rong also said, “Old Urchin, toward a person with a good faith we speak with a good faith; toward a deceitful person we speak deceitfully. Let us just get rid of him once and for all; I want to see what he is going to do.”

Qiu Qianren face turned deathly pale, he realized his precarious situation; but suddenly he got an idea, “Why do you want to kill me?” he called out.

The scholar replied, “You have done all kinds of evil deeds; everybody deserved to punish you.”

Qiu Qianren lifted his face to the sky and laughed, “Speaking about martial art, you rely on numbers to bully me, certainly I am not your match. But speaking about right and wrong, good and evil, hey, hey … Qiu Qianren is not alone. Whoever among you who has never killed anybody or done anything wrong; you can start punishing me. I will stretch out my neck to die in your hand; if I even creased my eyebrows; don’t consider me a real man.”

Reverend Yideng heaved a deep sigh, he was the first to step back then he lowered his head and sat cross-legged on the ground. Everybody else was deeply affected by Qiu Qianren’s words; each thought how they have committed countless errors in their lives. The Fisherman, Woodcutter, Farmer, and the Scholar were all high-ranking government officials of the Dali country; they had killed people. Although they were acting in enforcing the justice, in the end they had unavoidably made some mistakes.

Zhou Botong and Ying Gu looked at each other; they recalled the love and hate between them, and each felt ashamed. During the expedition to the west Guo Jing had killed numerous people, and he still blamed himself for that. Huang Rong remembered how she had made her father suffer, how she was being an unfilial daughter, and how many times she had deceived others; truly she had committed not a few faults of her own.

Qiu Qianren thought that his speech had silenced everybody, now it was a good time to slip away; therefore, with big strides he walked pass Guo Jing’s left side to leave. He saw Guo Jing step aside to let him go; he exerted his strength and about to flee when suddenly a bamboo stick appeared from behind the mountain rock, blocking his way. This bamboo stick was so swift, Qiu Qianren’s left palm flew up, his wrist made a turn, trying to catch the stick’s end; but unexpectedly the stick poked three times swiftly, targeting three major acupoints on his chest. Qiu Qianren was shocked; he felt that the bamboo stick’s incoming force was like a strong wind. He was unable to neither parry nor evade, and had no choice but step backwards and thus return to where he started, by the edge of the cliff. From behind the rock a dark shadow appeared with the stick in his hand, and then stood up in front of him.

“Shifu!” Guo Jing and Huang Rong cried out. The ‘jiu zhi shen gai’ [nine-fingered divine beggar] Hong Qigong had arrived. “Stinky beggar, you come to meddle. It’s not time for the sword meet yet,” Qiu Qianren cursed.

“I came to get rid of a traitor. Who wants to have a contest with you?” Hong Qigong said.

“Fine! What a great hero and warrior [actually, here he used the term ‘da ying xiong da xia shi’ - I don’t know how to differentiate ‘ying xiong’ and ‘xia’] you are, and I am a traitor. You are a good man and have never committed any misconduct,” Qiu Qianren said.

“That’s correct,” Hong Qigong replied, “During my lifetime the Old Beggar has killed 231 people; all these 231 people were wicked, if not greedy and corrupt officials, then they were local bullies or criminals who oppressed common people; they were all evil people who had no regard of justice and honor. The Old Beggar is a glutton, but in all my life I have never killed an innocent person. Qiu Qianren, you are the 232nd person!” His speech had made Qiu Qianren shiver with fear; he felt like his life had been taken from him. Hong Qigong continued, “Qiu Qianren, your Iron Palm Clan’s past Clan Leader Shangguan Jian Nan was a true hero; he devoted his entire life to serve the country, he was loyal till the day he died. Didn’t your master advise you to be a real man? You succeeded your master as the Iron Palm Clan Leader; yet you colluded with the Jins, betraying your own country. When you die, do you have any face to meet your master and Shangguan Jian Nan, Shangguan Bangzhu? You climb Mount Hua in a vain attempt to compete against other martial art experts to win the ‘Number One Martial Artist in the World’. Not only your martial art is inferior to everybody else’s; but even if your martial art were matchless, which hero of this world would want to submit to a traitor who sells his own country?”

This speech was like a bucket of cold water drenched over Qiu Qianren; everything he had ever done in the past dozens of years came into his mind one by one. He remembered his master’s instructions. How his master at his deathbed had imparted the Iron Palm Clan rules and regulations after he assumed the Clan Leader position; earnestly warning him to be a patriot, loyal to his country and love its people. Who would have thought that the older he got, the stronger his martial art became, the more he forgot his oath to love his country; he has become a traitor and a criminal, killing people who oppose his personal ambition. He fell deeper and deeper, until the clan members who were loyal and righteous left him, and in their place he took criminals as his disciples. He went as far as changing the upright Iron Palm Clan into a gang of bandits; sheltering evil people and support their evil practices; carrying out all kinds of evil things.

He lifted up his eyes to see the bright moon in the sky; he lowered his eyes to see Hong Qigong’s bright pair of eyes with a penetrating gaze looking at him. Suddenly his conscience was awakened; he felt that among all of his life conducts not one could be called honorable. His body was drenched in cold sweats; he sighed, “Hong Bangzhu, you are right.” He turned around and jumped into the canyon below.

Hong Qigong was holding tight his bamboo stick to guard against Qiu Qianren lest he would launch a sudden attack from shame. This person’s martial art is nothing to be trifled with; in his desperation his attack must be really fierce. Not in a million years would he expect him to suddenly attempt to commit suicide. He was stunned, but suddenly a grey shadow flew by his side; Reverend Yideng had arrived at the cliff edge. Initially he was sitting cross-legged, and when he moved, he was still cross-legged. His left arm stretched out and grabbed Qiu Qianren’s feet, pulled him strongly back to safety.

“Zhan zai, zhan cai!” he said, “The sea of bitterness knows no bounds; turn around and you will see the shore. You have already repented of your previous wrong doings; it’s not too late to become a new man.”

Qiu Qianren wept loudly, he knelt down in front of Yideng. He had millions of things he wanted to say, but was unable to utter a single word.

Ying Gu saw his back was in front of her; it was a very good opportunity for her the seek her revenge. She took a dagger from her bosom and fiercely thrust it into Qiu Qianren’s back.

“Wait!” Zhou Botong called out; stretching his hand to block Ying Gu’s dagger. Ying Gu was angry, “What are you doing?” she asked sternly.

Since the first time Zhou Botong saw Ying Gu, he had been scared. Now that she scolded him, he shouted, “Aiyo!” and turned around, rushing down the mountain.

“Where are you going?” Ying Gu called out and immediately pursued him.

“I have tummy ache, I need to defecate!” Zhou Botong shouted. Ying Gu was startled only for a second, then she ignored him and did not stop pursuing Zhou Botong.

Zhou Botong was stunned, “Aiyo! Not good! I have shits all over my pants; it stinks to high heaven. Don’t come over here!” he anxiously shouted.

Ying Gu had been searching for him for over twenty years; she believed that if she missed him again this time, she would not see him anymore. Hence she did not care whether Zhou Botong was really defecating or just pretending, she kept pursuing him.

Zhou Botong heard the sound of footsteps approaching; he was scared out of his wits. Initially he said he was defecating to scare Ying Gu out from coming near him; he was hoping that he would find an opportunity to slip away. Who would have thought that Ying Gu ignored his words. He was so frightened that he cried out; and from pretending, Zhou Botong actually did start urinating and defecating.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were amused to watch this couple who quickly disappear beyond the cliff in the distant; and then they turned their heads to see Reverend Yideng was speaking in low voice on Qiu Qianren’s ears. Qiu Qianren did not say anything, he simply nodded his head repeatedly. Yideng spoke for a long while then finally he stood up and said, “Let’s go.”

Jing and Rong two people hurriedly went forward to pay their respects; they also bowed to the Fisherman, the Woodcutter, the Farmer and the Scholar. Yideng held out his hand to stroke their heads; he looked at them tenderly with a gentle smile on his face. “Qi Xiong,” he turned to Hong Qigong, “You are in good shape, your bravery is as great as I remember it; you also received these two fine disciples. I must congratulate you.”

Hong Qigong bowed and said, “Reverend is also well.” Yideng smiled, “The mountain is tall and the river is long; till we meet again,” he said. Putting his palms together he turned around and left.

“Tomorrow is the sword meet, why are you leaving?” Hong Qigong called out.

Yideng turned his head and smiled, “The Old Monk is an outsider; how could I dare to compete with world class heroes over a title? The Old Monk is here today to take care of twenty years’ worth of gratitude and grudges; and I am happy my intention has been achieved. Qi Xiong, who is the present age hero but you? Why are you being modest?” Again he put his palms together, took Qiu Qianren’s hand, and walked down the mountain.

The four main disciples of Dali bowed toward Hong Qigong then followed behind their master. The Scholar walked by Huang Rong’s side. Seeing her cheeks were glowing he raised his eyebrows and smiled while reciting a line, “On the marshy land there was a ‘chang chu’ tree, its branches are soft and willowy!”

Hearing him tease her, Huang Rong replied with another line, “The chicken perched on their roost, the evening has arrived.” The Scholar laughed a big laughter, he cupped his fists and left.

Guo Jing was bewildered, “Rong’er,” he asked, “Was that another Sanskrit line?” “No,” Huang Rong smiled, “It was from ‘the book of poems’” she explained.

Hearing they were exchanging poetry, Guo Jing did not ask further. Looking at him Huang Rong smiled. She thought, “This ‘zhuang yuan’ [honorable title conferred to the person who scored highest in the imperial examination] is really smart; he had guessed correctly what’s in my heart. The next lines of what he recited from the book of poems are ‘pleasure does not need knowledge, pleasure does not need a family, pleasure does not need a room’. It was about a maiden adoring a bachelor’s love song. It is very appropriate to Jing Gege’s situation; he was saying that this scattered brain dumb kid has finally found a wife. I am very happy!” Having thought this suddenly she uttered a soft cry, “Aiyo!”

“What is it?” Guo Jing hastily asked.

Huang Rong smiled and said, “The next lines of what I recited are ‘The sheep and the cows coming down, the sheep and the cows went into the pen.’ The poem says that it was getting late, the sheep and the cows from the hillside returned to the fold and the gate was closed. In short I called that ‘zhuang yuan’ an animal. But it can be considered that I called Reverend Yideng an animal too!”

Guo Jing did not pay too much attention to this poetry exchange; he was pondering on what Hong Qigong had said to Qiu Qianren earlier. His heart was heavy with doubts and anxiety for these past several days; all his questions were answered in just a few words. His mind became open and he understood, “Shifu said he has killed 231 people; but these 231 people were all wicked. As long as he did not kill an innocent person, then his conscience is clear. Look how Shifu reprimanded Qiu Qianren, physical prowess is useless. This Qiu Qianren’s martial art is not necessary below that of Shifu’s, but because his heart was not upright, he cowered in Shifu’s presence. As long as I use my martial art to uphold justice, why would I want to put my martial art behind?”

It was actually a clear cut truth, even Qiu Chuji had spoken to him about the same truth. It was not that he did not believe Qiu Chuji, it was just that he recently joined Genghis Khan’s expedition to the west; he saw with his own eyes the terrible massacre, the cruelty on the battlefield, the suffering of the people, the tragic death of his mother under his own dagger; he loathed all kinds of war and violence and his mind was overwhelmed with this bitter thought. But after going through this deep thinking in his mind, finally his determination to do good deeds was getting stronger.

Jing and Rong two people went forward and kowtowed in front of their master; then they talked about things that happened after they parted. Turned out Hong Qigong followed Huang Yaoshi back to the Peach Blossom Island to tend to his injury. Using the method from the Nine Yin Manual he was able to revive his internal strength and open up the passages through which the vital energy circulate. It took him about half a year to heal his internal injury, then another half a year to recover his internal strength.

Huang Yaoshi was worried about his daughter; therefore, as soon as Hong Qigong’s injury was healed, he went to the north looking for her. Hong Qigong left the island much later than Huang Yaoshi did, and only a few days ago he came across Lu Youjiao; thus for the most part he had learned what happened to his disciples Jing and Rong.

Three people talked for a while. Finally Guo Jing said, “Shifu, please take some rest. Come daybreak you will compete in the sword meet; you will need a lot of energy.”

Hong Qigong laughed, “The older I get, my desire to outdo others is actually getting stronger; but thinking that very soon I am going to fight the Eastern Heretic and Western Poison, my heart is anxious. It is ridiculous! Rong’er, in the recent years your father’s martial art has improved tremendously. Tell me, in the upcoming contest between your father and your Shifu, who is strong and who is weak?”

Huang Rong replied, “The martial art of yours, Senior, and that of my father’s are always difficult to compare; but now you have mastered the ‘jiu yin shen gong’ [nine yin divine energy]; how can my father be your match? Later when I see my father I am going to advise him not to compete with you; he’d better go back home to the Peach Blossom Island early on.”

Listening to her manner of speaking, Hong Qigong felt something was strange. After pondering it for a while he understood her intention. He laughed loudly and said, “You don’t need to talk in circle to me; I got the ‘jiu yin shen gong’ from you two. You don’t have to goad me; the Old Beggar’s face is not thick enough to use that skill. When I compete with the Old Heretic Huang later, I am going to use only my own original skills.”

Huang Rong was expecting him to say these exact words; so she smiled and said, “Shifu, if you lose under my father’s hand, I am going to prepare a hundred types of food for you to eat. So winning you will no doubt be delighted, losing you will also be happy.”

Hong Qigong swallowed his saliva. “Hmm, this girl’s heart is not good. You provoke me then you bribe me. You are wickedly shrewd; you hope wholeheartedly your own father will win.”

Huang Rong smiled, but before she could answer Hong Qigong suddenly stood up. He pointed his finger toward Huang Rong’s back and called out, “Old Poison, you arrived very early!”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were startled; quickly they sprang up and stood next to Hong Qigong. They turned their heads and saw Ouyang Feng with his tall stature standing nearby. He arrived so quietly that these two people were not aware of his presence; they were greatly astonished.

End of Chapter 39. 

Chapter 40 – Sword Meet of Mount Hua (End)

Ouyang Feng coldly said, “Arrive early compete early, arrive late compete late. Old Beggar, tell me, our contest today, is it just to decide victory or defeat, or is it for our lives?”

“To achieve victory sometimes means risking our lives,” Hong Qigong said, “When we start, you don’t need to be lenient.”

“Good!” Ouyang Feng said. His left hand was behind his back, but suddenly he moved it forward, showing a snake staff. Tapping the staff’s end to a rock he asked, “Here, or do you need a more open space?”

Hong Qigong has not opened his mouth when Huang Rong interrupted, “Mount Hua is not a good place to compete, we’d better go to find a boat.”

Hong Qigong was puzzled, “What?”

“To give Mr. Ouyang another good opportunity to reply kindness with evil, to make a sneak attack from behind again,” Huang Rong explained.

Hong Qigong burst out in laughter, “Fall into a trap once, learn to be smart once; don’t expect the Old Beggar to show mercy anymore.”

Listening to Huang Rong’s insult Ouyang Feng’s face did not show any emotion. He bent his knees a little bit, moved his staff to his right hand, and launched the Toad Stance with his left hand.

Huang Rong gave the dog-beating stick in her hand to Hong Qigong, “Shifu, use the Dog Beating Stick Technique and the Nine Yin Manual’s martial arts. We don’t talk about honor and honesty with an old traitor like him.” Hong Qigong thought, “It really is not easy to win relying on my own martial arts alone; if I spend too much energy fighting the Old Poison, I won’t be able to fight the Old Heretic Huang later on.” So he nodded his head and took the dog-beating stick. Immediately his left hand launched ‘da cao jing she’ [beating the grass scaring the snake], while his right hand launched ‘bo cao xun she’ [brushing the grass aside looking for snakes]; attacking from both sides.

Ouyang Feng had fought him several times yet he had never seen Hong Qigong use the Dog Beating Stick Technique. Even in a critical situation when they were fighting on the burning boat Hong Qigong did not use this technique. Ouyang Feng had seen Huang Rong use this technique before and he did not dare to look down on the technique; now that the stick was in Hong Qigong’s hand it moved fast, carrying gusts of wind, truly not something to be trifled with. The snake staff in his hand shook; parried the left and evaded the right, he struck toward the middle.

He had lost his snake staff twice; the one currently in his hand was a new one. The staff had the same scary head carved on it, but the two venomous snakes wrapped around it were new; even though their poison was as lethal as the previous ones, but they haven’t been used too long; thus their effectiveness was inferior to the previous ones.

In the past Hong Qigong had been bitten by this kind of venomous snake, he had also suffered under Ouyang Feng’s vicious palms to the point of almost losing his life; which took him nearly two years to recover and get his martial art skill back. That was his greatest defeat and greatest danger he had to face his entire life; how could he not avenge this enmity? Thus he moved his stick with all his might, attacking furiously.

The first time those two fought was over the Nine Yin Manual during the Sword Meet of Mount Hua. The second time was on the Peach Blossom Island, fighting over Guo Jing and Ouyang Ke’s marriage proposal; this fight was to decide victory and defeat only, not a life-and-death situation. The third time was on the small boat in the middle of the sea; where life and death were separated only by a thin line, but Hong Qigong still held his uprightness. This fight was the fourth time they battled each other fiercely; each one threw everything they had, no more mercy. They both knew that the opponent had trained hard and improved their martial art skill throughout all these years; their martial arts were very fierce, so if they were careless and yield even for half a stance, it would be difficult not to lose their own lives.

Two people turning around and hitting each other for about two hundred moves when suddenly the moon disappeared, the darkness came blanketing everything. It was the darkest hour of the night before dawn. Both were afraid the opponent would launch a sneak attack, so they were focusing their attention on defense and did not care much on offense. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were anxious about their master’s safety; each moved forward several steps, ready to help if Hong Qigong’s life were threatened.

While watching intently on the fierce battle in front of his eyes, Guo Jing had a disquieting thought, “These two people are the top skilled martial artists, but one is heroically upholding justice, while the other one is deceitfully wicked. Obviously martial art in itself does not differentiate good from evil; it all comes back to the person using it. If used to do good deeds, then the higher the skill the better, but if it used to do evil deeds, then the higher the skill the more wicked the martial art becomes.”

The darkness made the battle difficult to watch, but the weapons made loud clashing sound and strong gusts of wind; Guo Jing’s heart was beating faster. “Shifu has wasted two years worth or training because of his injury. Originally they were in par with each other; this time the outcome will be decided by a step forward or backward; I am afraid Ouyang Feng will gain a half-step advantage because of that. If I knew this would happen I wouldn’t have shown mercy to him three times,” he silently mused.

Guo Jing remembered Qiu Chuji once explained the ‘xin yi’ [trust and honor], that big trust and big honor should be differentiated from small trust and small honor. If a person’s entire being lacking trust and honor, it was the same as if that person did not have any trust and honor at all. Thinking about this, he felt his blood rushing through his system, he thought, “Although Shifu and Ouyang Feng clearly said that the battle will be a one-to-one combat, but what if Ouyang Feng harmed Shifu? What if from this time on, he would run amuck in the world? I don’t know how many good people will be hurt in his hands. I wasn’t clear about truth and righteousness before, hence I committed not a few foolishnesses.” Because of this thought he lifted up his palms, ready to move forward to help his master.

But suddenly he heard Huang Rong called out, “Ouyang Feng, you and my Jing Gege had made an agreement which resulted in you being spared from death three times; who would have thought that you still relying on your strength bullying me? You proved yourself untrustworthy, much like a nameless pawn of the Wulin; yet you are still dreaming of becoming the number one martial artist of the world?”

Ouyang Feng had committed countless ruthless acts in his life, but he was a proud man, he would call ‘one’ as ‘one’, and ‘two’ as ‘two’; never backed off on his own words. If it was not because of his desire to learn the Nine Yin Manual he wouldn’t break his promise to Guo Jing. This time he was fighting a fierce battle with Hong Qigong and suddenly Huang Rong brought it up; his ears turned red and his mind was muddled; he lost his concentration and the dog beating stick almost hit him.

“You are known as the Western Poison,” Huang Rong continued, “So all kinds of evil are not stranger to you; but to have a junior sparing your life three times? You have lost your face. Where is your honor? How could you swallow your own words toward a junior? You have become the laughingstock of all the valiant people of the Jianghu till their mouths crooked. Ouyang Feng! Oh, Ouyang Feng! There is one title you deserve to have: you are the number one shameless man of the world!”

Ouyang Feng was angry, but he realized it was Huang Rong’s clever trick to break his concentration; to make him feel ashamed. And as long as his internal strength was affected he would fall under Hong Qigong’s hands, hence he turned a deaf ear toward Huang Rong. Who would have thought that Huang Rong kept accusing him with more and more evil and wicked deeds; sounded like every crime ever committed in the martial art world was his doing. If it was just ruthless deeds, Ouyang Feng did not care, but Huang Rong’s tongue was getting more and more vicious. She mentioned all kinds of lowly and cowardice acts that even a bandit in the Jianghu would not do. Furthermore she said Ouyang Feng kissed Lingzhi Shangren’s rear end; that he respectfully called Sha Tongtian his ‘beloved uncle’; that he regarded Peng Lianhu as his ‘honorable father’ and begging for the secret ingredient of the poison Peng was using; that he repeatedly asked Wanyan Honglie for the captain of the guards position, so that he could live at the Zhao palace and be their night watch. She went as far as how Guo Jing in the west had spared his life three times, how Guo Jing rescued him from the sand, but Huang Rong add some spices to her story, made Ouyang Feng appear completely helpless and the rescue ten times more dramatic.

At first Ouyang Feng was still able to control his emotion, but as the story progressed to extreme nonsense he could not restrain from refuting Huang Rong several times. It was exactly what Huang Rong wanted: to engage him in useless debate and deliberately losing his fighting concentration. Thus Ouyang Feng had to fight in two fronts: with his hands and feet he fiercely battled Hong Qigong, with his mouth he argued with Huang Rong. Unfortunately for him, Huang Rong’s mouth was a lot sharper than Hong Qigong’s hands and feet.

After fighting for half a day Ouyang Feng began to feel the pressure, he thought, “It would be difficult to win if I don’t use the martial art from the Nine Yin Manual.” Although he had not mastered Huang Rong’s explanation on reversing the blood flow through vital energy passages, he had been able to train for half a year; due to his own intelligent and profound martial art, he managed to somewhat improve his internal strength. Therefore, his snake staff suddenly made strange movements.

Hong Qigong was startled; he had to increase his attention. Huang Rong called out, “Yuan si ying er, ba ba xi luo zhao, xue liu wen bing.” Ouyang Feng was startled, “What is the meaning of that?” he asked himself. How would he know that Huang Rong was letting her tongue loose and talk whatever came into her mind? That it did not carry any meaning at all? Huang Rong repeatedly talked gibberish, changing the tone of her voice; sometimes sounded like she was scolding him, other time encouraging, but suddenly turned to a sigh; then the sigh turned into cheers. Some sentences sounded like they were questions; or urgently asking for advice. Ouyang Feng had determined to ignore her, but in the end his curiosity won, “What are you talking about?”

Huang Rong answered him using Sanskrit sentences she learned. Ouyang Feng was confused; he tried hard to remember the altered manual Guo Jing wrote for him. Suddenly a flood of chaotic sounds, images, strategic moves and martial arts theories came streaming into his mind. He felt dizzy and suffer a momentary memory loss.

Hong Qigong saw an opening in Ouyang Feng’s staff movement, “Got you!” he cried, and swung his stick toward the top of Ouyang Feng’s head.

This hit did not carry tremendous strength; Ouyang Feng was already confused, but after his head was hit he became more confused. He was in a daze; screamed and dragging along his snake staff he ran away.

“Where are you running to?” Guo Jing called out. He jumped to catch up. Ouyang Feng leaped high, made three somersaults in the air; then rolling and crawling, climbing a hill nearby, he disappeared without a trace.

Hong Qigong, Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other, perplexed; then they smiled out of surprise. Hong Qigong sighed, “Rong’er, your part in my victory over the Old Poison today is actually big. But with us, master and disciple, against one opponent, it was a rather shallow victory.”

Huang Rong smiled, “Shifu, it was you who taught me this skill.”

Hong Qigong laughed, “It was your natural ability,” he said, “Only a crafty old fellow as your father can have a crafty daughter like you.”

Suddenly someone called out from behind the mountain, “Good! You talk about other people behind their backs. Old Beggar, aren’t you ashamed?”

“Father!” Huang Rong called and leaped to him.

It was dawn, the morning light shone on a man wearing a green robe, walking leisurely. It was none other than the Master of the Peach Blossom Island, Huang Yaoshi.

Huang Rong threw herself into her father’s bosom; father and daughter hugged each other. Huang Yaoshi could see the childish expression had gone from his daughter’s face; she had grown into a beautiful young woman. She looked much like his late wife, that his heart was both happy and sad at the same time.

“Old Heretic Huang,” Hong Qigong said, “Didn’t I tell you on the Peach Blossom Island that your virgin daughter is so smart? She is so crafty; others won’t bully her that easily, so there is nothing for you to worry. Now tell me, was the Old Beggar wrong?”

Huang Yaoshi smiled faintly, holding his daughter’s hand he went near and said, “Congratulations! You made the Old Poison ran away. His defeat means you and I have one less problem to face.”

“You and I are the current experts of the world,” Hong Qigong said, “As soon as I saw your daughter the worms in my tummy started to dance around, my mouth watered. Let us just compete and get it over with; you become the number one is fine with me, I become the number one is also good. I only want to eat Rong’er’s cooked meals.”

“Not so fast,” Huang Rong laughed, “Only if you lose I will cook something for you to eat.” “Bah!” Hong Qigong spat, “You are shameless. You are extorting me, aren’t you?”

“Old Beggar,” Huang Yaoshi said, “You have wasted two full years to recover from your injuries. I am afraid you are not my match. Rong’er, no matter who wins and who loses, you will cook some food for your Shifu to eat.”

“Right!” Hong Qigong exclaimed, “Now THAT is a speech befitting a great master of a martial art school! How can the Master of the Peach Blossom Island have the same petty thought as a little girl? We don’t have to wait until noon to start our competition. Come!” He swung his bamboo stick and moved forward to begin.

Huang Yaoshi shook his head, “You have just fought the Old Poison for quite a while. Although your energy is not completely depleted, you are tired nonetheless. How can Old Huang gain a slight advantage over you? We will wait till noon to compete, you need to restore your strength.”

Even though Hong Qigong knew what he said was right, but he was too impatient to wait, so he insisted on starting right away. Huang Yaoshi simply sat on a big rock, totally ignoring him.

Seeing these two could not reach any agreement Huang Rong said, “Father, Shifu, I have an idea: the two of you can compete immediately without Father taking any advantage over Shifu.”

“Good! What is it?” Hong Qigong and Huang Yaoshi asked.

“The two of you have been friends for many-many years, no matter who wins or loses; your friendship will be damaged. But today is the Sword Meet of Mount Hua, so no matter what, victory and defeat must be decided, does it not?”

Hong and Huang two people’s interests were piqued. They were aware that she was right; and if she indeed had an excellent idea, then they would kill three birds with one stone: one, they could compete immediately; two, Huang Yaoshi would not take any advantage over Hong Qigong; three, their friendship would not be damaged. So they enthusiastically asked, “Tell us your great idea.”

“My idea is this,” Huang Rong explained, “First, Father compete with Jing Gege. We will see how many stances Father will need to defeat him. Then Shifu will also compete with Jing Gege. If Father uses 99 moves to score victory but Shifu needs 100 moves, then Father wins. But if Shifu only need 98 moves, then Shifu wins.”

“Wonderful! Wonderful!” Hong Qigong exclaimed.

Huang Rong continued, “Jing Gege will compete with Father first; both are still fresh. Then when he competes with Shifu, both parties have each fought one time. Don’t you say it is a fair deal?”

Huang Yaoshi nodded his head, “This is a good idea. Jing’er, come! Are you going to use weapon or not?”

“I am not going to,” Guo Jing said. He was about to step forward when Huang Rong said again, “Hold on a second. There is one more thing I want to say: What if you two seniors cannot defeat Jing Gege in 300 moves?”

Hong Qigong burst out in laughter, “Old Heretic Huang, originally I envy you of having a smart daughter, who is always looking after her Father’s well-being. Ay! Who would have thought that a girl is always a girl; born to leave home. Actually she wanted this dumb kid to hold the title ‘Number One Martial Artist in the World’!”

Huang Yaoshi might be eccentric, but he loved his daughter with all his heart. He secretly thought, “Let me help her achieve her wish.” So he said, “What Rong’er had said is true. If we two old men cannot defeat Jing’er in 300 moves, would we have any face to become the Number One?” But suddenly he had another thought, “I intended to hold back and let him to fight me for 300 stances, but what if the Old Beggar does not hold back and score victory in less than 300 moves? Then I won’t be holding back for Jing’er’s sake, but for the Old Beggar’s.” He hesitated on what to do.

Hong Qigong shoved Guo Jing forward, “Go, fight! What are you waiting for?” he said.

Guo Jing staggered and stepped forward to face Huang Yaoshi. “All right,” Huang Yaoshi thought, “Let me try his skill first, then I’ll decide what to do later.” Raising his left palm he hacked diagonally toward Guo Jing’s neck. “First move!” he called out.

While Huang Yaoshi was not sure what to do, Guo Jing also had some doubt of his own, “There is no way I can win the world’s number one title; but shall I let Daozhu [Island Master] win, or shall I let Shifu win?” He was still thinking when Huang Yaoshi had made his move. Guo Jing lifted up his right hand to parry. His body shook and he almost fell down. “Stupid!” he scolded himself, “Why would I worry about whom I should let to win? Even if I fight will all my might I may not be able to keep up for 300 stances.”

In the mean time Huang Yaoshi had launched the second move, so he was forced to focus his attention. He made a decision right then and there, to compete with those two people with all his might. Who is swift and who is slow, let them use their skill to defeat him. He would not be one sided.

Several stances later Huang Yaoshi was astonished. “How did this dumb kid reach this level? If I held back, not only I might not be able to defeat him in 300 stances, I might even lose in his hands.” In a battle between martial art experts one cannot let back even half a step. Because initially Huang Yaoshi was only using 70% of his strength, he fell under Guo Jing’s control. He started to feel alarmed, and busily launched the ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ [falling flower divine sword palm technique], his body floating around at full strength. But Guo Jing now was not the same as Guo Jing then. Huang Yaoshi had used dozens different palm techniques, yet it was still difficult for him to gain an upper hand. After about one hundred moves Huang Yaoshi suddenly launched a trick move. Guo Jing did not expect him to make such move; he was almost kicked down by Huang Yaoshi’s left leg. Frantically Guo Jing retreated two steps and steadied himself. Because of this Huang Yaoshi managed to even up the battle situation.

Huang Yaoshi took that opportunity to take a deep breath. “Amazing!” he secretly praised.

Huang Yaoshi worked very hard to gain an upper hand, but unexpectedly Guo Jing’s position was very firm. Guo Jing had decided all along to put up a very tight defense line; he knew it was impossible for him to win, so he only hoped he would not lose.

Listening to his daughter on the side counting, “Two-hundred and three, two-hundred and four,” Huang Yaoshi became impatient. “Old Beggar may use a heavy hand; if he defeats Jing’er in 100 moves, where would I put my face at?” he silently thought. He changed his attacks: now his palms floating around like a shadow; his hands were very swift.

Guo Jing started to feel the pressure; his chest tightened, like it was pressed under a huge mountain. He started to get disoriented, but he bravely stood his ground.

Huang Yaoshi’s hands moved faster and faster, his offensive power increased. In the meantime Huang Rong’s mouth was also counting faster and faster.

Guo Jing started to feel his lips and tongue dry up, his movements became sluggish; getting more and more difficult. The only thing kept him going was his strong will. In this critical moment suddenly he heard Huang Rong call out, “Three hundred!”

Huang Yaoshi’s countenance changed, he leaped back.

Guo Jing, on the other hand, still felt dizzy. His body did not stop spinning; he turned around more than a dozen times. He knew he was going to fall, hence he focused his energy to his left leg with ‘qian jin zhui’ [thousand-catty plummet], trying to anchor his body down. But Huang Yaoshi power was incredible; even after he pulled back his hands, the force did not vanish away. Guo Jing lost his balance and fell down; but he used his right hand to push himself back up again. Immediately he launched dozens of stances from the ’18- Dragon Subduing Palms’ and thus cleared his mind up. He stayed silent for a moment, then turned his head toward Huang Yaoshi and said, “Huang Daozhu, several moves more and I will fall down to the ground.”

Seeing Guo Jing was unexpectedly able to withstand his more than ten years worth of ‘qi men wu zhuan’ [wonderful gate five revolutions] cultivation, Huang Yaoshi was not angry; on the contrary, he was happy. “Old Beggar,” he said, “I am useless, the title Number One in the World is yours.” He cupped his fists and turned around to leave.

“Not too fast! Not too fast!” Hong Qigong said, “I won’t necessarily win. Could you lend your iron flute to Jing’er, please?”

Huang Yaoshi’s jade flute was already broken, so he wielded an iron flute on his waist instead. He pulled the flute and gave it to Guo Jing.

Hong Qigong turned to Guo Jing and said, “You use a weapon. I will fight you barehanded.” Guo Jing was dumbstruck, “This …”

Hong Qigong said, “Your bare hand techniques came from me. If you use your hands and feet, how can we call it competition? Come!” His left hand’s fingers forming a hook, showing off his grabbing skill, trying to snatch the iron flute in Guo Jing’s hand. Guo Jing did not understand his intention; he let the flute go without any resistance.

“Dumb kid!” Hong Qigong scolded, “We are competing martial arts skill!” With his left hand he gave the flute back to Guo Jing, while with his right hand he tried to snatch it one more time. This time Guo Jing moved his flute to evade the attack. Huang Rong started counting, “First move!”

In the battle between experts, using weapon or being barehanded did not make too much difference. Hong Qigong used his ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ attacking ferociously; the gust of wind could be felt a ‘zhang’ [10 feet/3 meters] away. Even with the iron flute in his hand, how could Guo Jing get close to him? Moreover, Guo Jing was not used to use weapon until in the western region he was forced to battle Ouyang Feng on the stone cliff. It was then that he started improving his sword technique. Even then he did not put too much emphasis on the offense; his swordsmanship was 80% for defense, and only 20% for offense.

The weapon techniques he learned from the Six Freaks of Jiangnan were inadequate to battle an expert; it was after he learned the Nine Yin Manual that his weapon technique improved greatly. Actually it was inside that stone building in the west he started learning many defensive techniques in using a sword to defend against Ouyang Feng’s snake staff. This time he was using an iron flute as a sword to ward off Hong Qigong’s fierce palm attacks; and he was able to defend himself quite well.

Hong Qigong could see his strong defense line and was delighted, he thought, “This kid made a tremendous advancement; I did not teach him in vain. But it won’t look good for the Old Heretic Huang if I defeat him in under 200 moves. I’d better wait until after 200 moves then I am going to increase my power.” And so Hong Qigong kept using his ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’, from the first variation to the ninth; with gusts of wind so strong surrounded Guo Jing completely.

This was where Hong Qigong made a mistake. Guo Jing’s weapon skill had not reached perfection yet; if he kept pressing Guo Jing with a heavy hand, Guo Jing would not be able to withstand, but he wanted to wait until after the 200th move. Initially Guo Jing’s strength was already profound; after completed the ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ [changing muscle forging bone chapter], his internal strength increased by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, Hong Qigong had advanced in age, plus he had suffered a heavy injury under Ouyang Feng’s snake staff. It was true that he had completely recovered, but his stamina could not compete with Guo Jing’s in an endurance race. To make matter worse for him, the ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ required a lot of energy; so after 9 rounds (or 162 stances) even if his attacks were still strong and fierce, but his stamina was gradually decreasing.

After about 200 moves not only the iron flute in Guo Jing’s right hand increased in offensive power, but he was actually getting better in coordinating the right sword technique with his left hand palm technique. Hong Qigong was secretly groaning; realizing that he would not win relying on his brute force, he had to use strategy to defeat this dumb kid, so immediately he changed the way he fought. He opened his hands wide.

Guo Jing was startled, “Shifu has not taught me this stance yet,” he thought. If it was a fight against an enemy, he would attack toward the chest since it was wide open, but the opponent he faced was his own benevolent master, how could he use a killer strike?

While he hesitated, Hong Qigong smiled and said, “You are tricked!” His left foot swiftly moved upward to knock the iron flute in Guo Jing’s hand down, while his right palm slanting downward, attacking Guo Jing’s shoulder. He only used 80% of his strength on this attack since he did not have any intention to hurt Guo Jing. He only wanted to knock Guo Jing down, and thus achieved victory.

Who would have thought that these past several years Guo Jing had endured wind and frost; his body became resilient. This heavy blow made him stagger and caused him to suffer a severe pain, but he did not fall down.

Hong Qigong was surprised Guo Jing was able to withstand his palm, he busily said, “Quickly spit three times and breathe in, breathe out; see if you suffer an internal injury.”

Guo Jing followed his advice, and his chest was not constricted, anymore so he said, “Disciple has lost.”

“No,” Hong Qigong said, “We have to keep fighting. If you admit defeat, the Old Heretic Huang won’t accept it. Come!” Immediately he sent his palm to attack.

Guo Jing did not have any weapon in his hand anymore, while the incoming attack was fierce, so he used Zhou Botong’s Vacant Fist to parry the attack.

The Vacant Fist technique was the softest fist technique in the world; it was created by Zhou Botong based on the Taoist principles found in the ‘Dao De Jing’ [moral/virtue scripture – Taoist’s holy scripture]. The ‘Dao De Jing’ said, ‘A strong army can be decimated; a strong tree can be broken. Strength will fail; suppleness will prevail.” Also, “The most flexible substance under the sky is water, but it is not easy to withstand its strong attack. Suppleness’ victory is powerful; softness’ victory is strong. No one in the world is unaware, no one can stand.’

On the other hand, ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ technique was the strongest/hardest martial art. There was a saying, ‘Softness can overcome hardness.’ However, if it was Hong Qigong’s level of ‘hardness,’ then it would not be easy for Zhou Botong’s ‘softness’ to overcome. Fortunately, Guo Jing had mastered the mutual hands combat technique, so with his right hand he launch the soft Vacant Fist, while with his left he employed the Dragon Subduing Palm; hard and soft worked together, yin and yang complemented each other. No matter how fierce Hong Qigong’s attack was, he could not penetrate Guo Jing’s defense.

On the side Huang Rong kept counting; it was almost 300 stances, and Guo Jing did not show any sign that he would be defeated soon. One move after another … Hong Qigong heard her calling out the number two hundred and ninety-nine; he became edgy, wanted to win the contest; so for the last move he launched the ‘Proud Dragon Repents’ full-strength, with earth-shattering power to back it up. But once it was launched, he began to feel regret; afraid that Guo Jing would not be able to withstand and suffer a heavy injury, so he shouted, “Watch out!”

Guo Jing understood his warning, but the gust of wind had already reached his face; he knew it was very strong. He also knew that his Vacant Fist wouldn’t be able to parry this attack; so in this critical moment his right hand made a circle and with a loud shout launched the very same ‘Proud Dragon Repents’.

Two palms collided with a deafening sound; both men felt their bodies shook violently. Huang Yaoshi and Huang Rong both cried out in shock, simultaneously they jumped toward the men, only to see both men stood still with their palms stuck together like they were glued to each other.

Guo Jing had a mind to yield, but knew very well that his master’s overbearing power was still pushing his palm. If he let go and his master did not take his strength away, he might end up getting seriously injured. Hence he was forced to wait for his master to take the pressure away then he would admit defeat.

Seeing Guo Jing was able to block this palm, which he sent with his lifetime cultivation of energy, Hong Qigong could not help but feel pleasantly surprised. He regretted his proud thinking of wanting to be the number one; now he wanted his disciple to win this contest and build up a name for himself. Therefore, gradually he decreased his power to nothing.

Right when these two men were still in a stalemate position, where nobody wins or loses, suddenly someone was heard shouting three times from behind the cliff; then someone leaped and made three somersaults in the air before landing on the ground close to them; it was the Western Poison Ouyang Feng. Hong Qigong and Guo Jing simultaneously retracted their palms and leaped backward.

Ouyang Feng’s clothes were tattered, his face full of blood, he shouted, “I have mastered the Nine Yin Manual! My martial art is number one in the world!” Lifting up his snake staff he swept away all four people. Hong Qigong picked up his dog-beating stick and parried the snake staff. After a while all four people were astonished. Ouyang Feng’s stances had always been unusual, but this time they were weirder than ever: he would suddenly claw his own face or kick his own buttock; while launching an attack he would suddenly change direction midway in an unpredictable way. Hong Qigong was extremely amazed; he put a strong defense with his dog-beating technique and did not dare to act carelessly.

While fighting ferociously, ‘Slap! Slap! Slap!’ suddenly Ouyang Feng slapped his own face red, then he shouted loudly; put down his hands and crawled around like an animal.

Hong Qigong was surprised, but also amused, he thought, “My stick technique is the best at beating dogs, you act like a dog, aren’t you just coming straight for the trap?” Lifting up his bamboo stick he aimed for Ouyang Feng’s waist. Unexpectedly Ouyang Feng rolled his body around and pinched the stick to the ground; then he rolled alongside the stick upward. Hong Qigong was so startled that his grab loosened and the bamboo stick fell down. Ouyang Feng suddenly leaped up and kicked both feet toward Hong Qigong’s head. Hong Qigong was taken by surprise and forced to step back in anxiety.

By this time Huang Rong had already bent down and picked the iron flute up, giving it to her father. Huang Yaoshi used that flute as a sword piercing toward Ouyang Feng. “Emperor Duan! I am not afraid of your ‘Solitary Yang Finger’!” Ouyang Feng called out; he jumped and threw himself up.

Seeing his behavior like that, Huang Yaoshi knew that his mind was confused; but to Huang Yaoshi’s amazement his attack was fiercer than before. Even though he was smart, Huang Yaoshi did not have any idea what had happened. He did not know that Ouyang Feng had diligently trained himself according to the altered manual Guo Jing wrote for him; and then Huang Rong led him along the wrong path by giving him random interpretation. Driven by his desire to win the competition he followed her instruction blindly and trained hard. Only his martial art was profound, so even though following the wrong path with lots of mistakes, he somehow managed to achieve some improvement and gave Hong and Huang, two men of great learning and integrity, a hard time.

Dozens of stances later Huang Yaoshi was forced to admit defeat. Guo Jing stepped forward to face the enemy. Ouyang Feng suddenly stopped and wept, “My son, you died a tragic death!” Throwing his snake staff aside he opened up his arms wide to hug Guo Jing.

Guo Jing knew he was remembering his nephew, Ouyang Ke. Ouyang Feng’s voice sounded so miserable that Guo Jing felt sorry for him; but he was also scared, so he held out his hand to shove Ouyang Feng’s arms away. But Ouyang Feng turned his left wrist over and grabbed Guo Jing’s arm, while his right arm tightly hugged Guo Jing’s body. Guo Jing frantically struggled to free himself but Ouyang Feng was too strong for him; he could not get away from Ouyang Feng’s embrace.

Hong Qigong and Huang Yaoshi, father and daughter, were shocked; they moved together to rescue Guo Jing. Hong Qigong stretched out his finger to attack the ‘feng wei’ [phoenix tail] acupoint on Ouyang Feng’s shoulder, to force him loosen up his grip. Unexpectedly by that time Ouyang Feng’s energy passages had been reversed, his acupoints were entirely dislodged, that although Hong Qigong’s finger was right on target seemed like he did not even aware of the attack.

Huang Rong picked up a rock and smashed the top of Ouyang Feng’s head. Ouyang Feng casually swung his right fist upward; Huang Rong was not able to hold the rock, it flew toward the valley below. But because of this interference Guo Jing was free from Ouyang Feng’s right arm; he struggled hard and leaped backward. After calming down a moment he saw Ouyang Feng and Huang Yaoshi were engaged in a fierce battle.

Huang Yaoshi had inserted his flute back to his waist and fought barehanded. This time Ouyag Feng’s movement was really bizarre, weird beyond imagination. Sometimes he stood upright, some other time he would lean to the side with body as straight as a stick, yet some other time his body was horizontally off the ground, supported with one hand while the other hand launched strange attacks. Huang Yaoshi had to put all his concentration to face this kind of opponent, since Ouyang Feng’s movement was totally unpredictable.

Hong Qigong, Guo Jing and Huang Rong three people were watching intently with their hearts beating fast. Seeing her father’s precarious condition, Huang Rong called out, “Shifu, toward this lunatic we don’t have to follow Wulin’s rules, let us fight together!”

Hong Qigong shook his head, “If it were some other day, we can cooperate to capture him, but today is the Sword Meet of Mount Hua; the men of valor under the heaven must fight one on one. If we relied on numbers we will be disgraced by the heroes of Jianghu.” But he also could see that Ouyang Feng’s mental condition was so severe; his mouth foaming, spitting his saliva everywhere. Huang Yaoshi had a difficult time avoiding this attack and was forced to step back.

A moment later Ouyang Feng stooped down, seemingly in pain; his back was completely undefended. Huang Yaoshi was delighted, he thought, “His madness is spreading after all.” With the ‘Divine Flicking Finger’ he attacked the ‘ying xiang’ [welcoming fragrance] acupoint on the side of Ouyang Feng’s nose. This finger attack was executed swiftly but unexpectedly as soon as it touched his face, Ouyang Feng slightly turned his head and bit Huang Yaoshi’s index finger.

Huang Yaoshi was so startled and quickly hit the ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint with his left hand; forcing the mouth to loosen up. Ouyang Feng thrust his right hand up while his mouth bit even harder.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong simultaneously attacked from both sides. Ouyang Feng was forced to loosen up his bit on Huang Yaoshi’s finger, but his ten fingers forming two claws tried to grab Huang Rong’s face. Under the bright sunlight his face looked so nauseatingly fierce and full of blood. Huang Rong was so scared that she ran away screaming.

Guo Jing hurriedly came to her rescue; Ouyang Feng was forced to parry this palm attack toward his back, giving Huang Rong an opportunity to escape. Only about a dozen of so stances later Guo Jing’s shoulder and leg were hit one after another. “Jing’er, back off! Let me try,” Hong Qigong shouted, rushed ahead barehanded. Two people were engaged in a fierce battle for the second time in one day, this time more ferocious than the last.

Hong Qigong had been paying close attention when Ouyang Feng battled Huang Yaoshi and Guo Jing. He found out that even though Ouyang Feng’s movements were strange, he could see a pattern on them; they were actually based on the ‘Toad Stance’ launched backward, like upward movement became downward, left became right. Although his comprehension was incomplete, but Hong Qigong thought that with 70, 80% certainty he had a general idea on how to battle him. He proceeded with utmost caution, and was able to launch a counterattack for roughly every three attacks he received.

Huang Rong took out her handkerchief and wrapped her father’s wound. Huang Yaoshi turned his attention to the ongoing battle and after watching a moment he started to shout one after another, “Qi Xiong, kick him upside down.” “Strike his ‘ju que’ [gigantic capital]!” “Hack his ‘tian zhu’ [pillar of heaven] with the back of your hand.”

As a spectator Huang Yaoshi could see clearly; Hong Qigong followed his instructions and a short while later was able to gain a slight advantage over his opponent. But actually these two people were ashamed of what they were doing, they thought, “This time the Eastern Heretic and the Northern Beggar two people join forces to battle the Western Poison, one person.” Seeing his defeat is imminent, suddenly Ouyang Feng opened up his mouth and spat his saliva toward Hong Qigong’s face.

Hong Qigong quickly leaned sideways to evade, but unexpectedly Ouyang Feng had already anticipated his move. Ouyang Feng’s palm flew and slapped the side of Hong Qigong’s head; while simultaneously spat saliva toward his face. Hong Qigong was in an awkward position; he did not have any chance to evade. If he let the spittle hit his eyeball he knew he would suffer an injury, or at least very hurt; and if the opponent used that opportunity to attack it would be very difficult for him to parry. He did not have any choice but extending his right hand and took the spittle with his palm, while his left hand counterattacked.

Several stances later Ouyang Feng again spat his saliva; looked like he was using his spittle as secret projectile to confuse enemy’s defense. Hong Qigong felt icky and angry at the same time. He still had the spittle on his right palm; he was not able to shake it loose or wipe it on his clothes since he had to focus his entire concentration to fight the enemy. With a sudden movement he stretched his right palm and shouted, “Got you!” He smeared his right palm on Ouyang Feng’s face. Looked like he was casually smearing the spittle on Ouyang Feng’s face, but in actuality his palm carried a murderous intention.

Even though Ouyang Feng’s mind was confused his senses were as keen as before. Seeing Hong Qigong’s palm was about to wipe his face he leaned sideways slightly, evading the attack. Hong Qigong flipped his palm and moved vertically up. Ouyang Feng turned his head slightly and opened his mouth to bite. It was exactly the same bite that defeated Huang Yaoshi’s unique skill. It looked ridiculous, but since his movement was so quick that even somebody who had reached martial art perfection like Huang Yaoshi was not able to evade.

Huang Yaoshi, Huang Rong and Guo Jing could see clearly Hong Qigong’s palm went straight into Ouyang Feng’s mouth; and within an inch from the target suddenly the mouth opened showing two rows of white teeth gleaming under the bright sunlight; ready to bite Hong Qigong’s finger. They could not refrain from shouting in alarm, “Watch out!”

What these three people, along with Ouyang Feng, forgot was that Hong Qigong was widely known as the ‘jiu zhi shen gai’ [Nine- fingered Divine Beggar]. One time because of his gluttonous character he was late in saving the life of a Jianghu’s man of valor. In his regret and anger toward himself he chopped off his right index finger.

Ouyang Feng’s bite was swift and accurate, if it were other people he would certainly succeed in biting other’s finger; but because Hong Qigong did not have an index finger ‘clack!’ his teeth were biting air.

Actually Ouyang Feng, and everybody else for that matter, knew that Hong Qigong only had nine fingers; but in a ferocious battle situation like this, who would have time to remember little detail like that? The battle between experts, where both contenders’ martial arts have been refined through fire, more often than not the end result would be decided by slight oversight like this. When Ouyang Feng bit an empty space, how could Hong Qigong let this opportunity pass? With the ‘xiao kou ya ya’ [the laughter of a mute] immediately his middle finger struck the ‘di cang’ [earthen storehouse] acupoint on the side of Ouyang Feng’s mouth.

Seeing Hong Qigong’s attack went well, the three spectators were ready to applaud, but their mouths were just saying the word ‘good’ when suddenly Hong Qigong somersaulted several times backward; while Ouyang Feng staggered backward like a drunk before finally came to a stop and let out a big laugh.

Turned out the energy passages in his body were reversed, so that when Hong Qigong hit his major acupoint of ‘zu yang ming wei jing’ [lit. positive foot, bright stomach passage] he only experienced a slight numbness, then immediately back to normal. Taking that opportunity his palm hit Hong Qigong’s shoulder. Lucky for him, because his finger was stretched out, he did not get hit too severely. Hong Qigong further neutralized the hit by somersaulting backward while launching the ‘jian long zai tian’ [seeing dragon on the field], which made Ouyang Feng stagger back.

Hong Qigong avoided serious injury by moving fast, yet his body was sore, temporarily unable to move. Hong Qigong was the grand master of his respective martial art school; even if he did not want to admit defeat to a confused man, yet he had to admit that the opponent’s martial art was admirable. He cupped his fists and said, “Ouyang Xiong, the Old Beggar admits defeat, you are the Number One Martial Artist in the World!”

Ouyang Feng looked up to the sky and let out a long laugh, his arms waving chaotically in the air. He turned toward Huang Yaoshi and asked, “Emperor Duan, do you or do you not admit defeat?” Huang Yaoshi was not happy, he thought, “The Number One Martial Artist in The World title fell to a lunatic; won’t the Old Beggar and I become the laughingstock of the heroes of the world?” But he realized that even if he’d fight again, it would be difficult for him to score victory anyway, so he did not have any choice but nod his agreement.

Ouyang Feng turned to Guo Jing and said, “Son, your father’s martial art is matchless, unrivalled in the world, aren’t you happy?”

Ouyang Ke was officially his nephew, but actually he was his son; they were known as uncle and nephew but actually they were father and son. In his confused mind he saw Guo Jing as Ouyang Ke, and thus revealing the secret he had kept for decades.

Guo Jing thought no one present was able to defeat him, so he was worthy of the title Number One Martial Artist in the World; “We can’t defeat you!” he said.

Ouyang Feng giggled foolishly, he turned toward Huang Rong and said, “Good daughter-in-law, aren’t you happy?”

Huang Rong saw her father, her master and Guo Jing were defeated one after another; she had been thinking of a way to cope with this lunatic early on, but could not think of anything good. Now Ouyang Feng was asking her, she saw he was dancing joyfully with a strange facial expression. Under the bright sunlight his shadow was also dancing back and forth in confusion; suddenly an idea came into her mind, “Who said you are number one in the world?” she asked, “There is one person you can’t defeat for sure.”

Ouyang Feng was very angry, he beat his chest and roared, “Who? Who? Let him come here and fight me!” “This man’s martial art is so high, you are not his match,” Huang Rong said.

“Who? Who? Let him come here and fight me!” Ouyang Feng said. “He is called Ouyang Feng,” Huang Rong said.

Ouyang Feng scratched his head, musing, “Ouyang Feng?”

Huang Rong continued, “Right! Your martial art may be high, but you won’t stand against Ouyang Feng.”

Ouyang Feng’s mind was totally confused; he knew the name ‘Ouyang Feng’ to have a very close relationship with himself, but who could that be? “Who am I?” he asked nobody in particular.

“You are you,” Huang Rong sneered, “You don’t know who you are, why do you ask me?”

Ouyang Feng’s heart turned cold, he leaned his head sideways, trying to think hard; but his brain did not want to cooperate, he could not figure out who he was, he could not understand anything.

He was an intelligent man; oftentimes when he was alone he liked to ponder the old-age philosophical questions like, “Who am I? What am I during my lifetime? What will I become after I die?” Ouyang Feng was a smart person, his comprehension ability was outstanding; these questions sometimes came flashing in his mind. That particular day he had defeated three great martial artists but his energy passages were reversed; he would be happy but suddenly turn angry. Listening to Huang Rong he looked around in confusion and muttered, “I, who am I? Where am I? What happened to me?”

“Ouyang Feng wanted to fight you, he wanted to snatch the Nine Yin Manual away from you!” Huang Rong said. “Where is he?” Ouyang Feng asked

Huang Rong pointed toward his own shadow and said, “Look! He is behind you!”

Ouyang Feng quickly turned around and saw his own shadow. He was shocked. “This … this … he … he …” “He is going to beat you!” Huang Rong said.

Ouyang Feng squatted and hacked the shadow. The shadow also squatted and hacked him.

Ouyang Feng was scared, he hacked and he chopped left and right, but the shadow also moving incessantly. Ouyang Feng felt his opponent was so fierce, he turned around to evade. Facing the sunlight he did not see his shadow anymore “Where did you run?” he shouted, and ran toward the left.

Their left side was actually a barren rock wall. The sun was behind him, casting a shadow on the wall. It looked like the enemy was standing straight in front of him. Ouyang Feng sent out his right palm, striking the wall with all his might. He felt a shot of pain straight to his bone. “Very fierce!” he shouted. Immediately he sent a left kick toward the wall, and the shadow also sent him a kick. His foot hit the wall, hard. The pain was unbearable. Ouyang Feng did not dare to fight again; he turned around and ran away.

This time he was running toward the sun, the enemy disappeared. Several ‘zhang’s later he turned around to look, and to his surprise the enemy was right behind him. He was frightened and shouted loudly, “You can be the world’s number one, I admit defeat.” But the shadow was motionless.

Ouyang Feng turned around and ran again, but as soon as he turned his head he saw the shadow was closely following him. He could not run, he could not fight, his heart was stricken with terror; screaming and cursing he ran toward the valley below. A moment later his voice could still be heard from the other side of the hill, “Don’t chase me, don’t chase me!”

Seeing a great grand master of martial art of their generation ended up this way Huang Yaoshi and Hong Qigong looked at each other and heaved a deep sigh. By that time Ouyang Feng’s cry was intermittent, it sounded like he was already several ‘li’s away. The mountains and valleys echoed his cry, which sounded like a wolf’s howl or a ghost’s cry. The four of them were standing under the bright sunlight, yet they felt coldness creep into their hearts.

Hong Qigong sighed, “This man won’t live much longer.” All of a sudden Guo Jing mumbled, “I? Who am I?”

Huang Rong knew him to be honest and upright, she was afraid he might think over this matter too much and as a result being possessed by an evil spirit; quickly she said, “You are Guo Jing, Jing Gege. Quickly think about yourself, don’t think too much about other matters.”

Guo Jing shivered in cold, startled, and came to his senses, “Right! Shifu, Huang Daozhu, let us go down the mountain.”

“Dumb kid!” Hong Qigong scolded him, “You are still calling him Huang Daozhu? I’m going to give you several slaps on your face.”

Guo Jing was startled; he saw Huang Rong was blushing, looked like she was smiling, yet she was not. He knew what to do; bashfully he called, “Father-in-law!” his face was red.

Huang Yaoshi laughed a big laugh; he pulled his daughter’s hand with one hand, then pulled Guo Jing’s hand with the other, said to Hong Qigong, “Qi Xiong, martial art study is inexhaustible. Today we’ve seen the Old Poison’s martial art, which made others frightened and ashamed at the same time. Ever since Chongyang Zhenren died, there is no more the Number One Martial Artist in the World.”

“Rong’er’s culinary skill is number one in the world, this I can guarantee,” Hong Qigong said.

Huang Rong pursed up her lips and laughed, “No need to praise me, let us go down the mountain; I am going to prepare some good food for you to enjoy.”

Hong Qigong, Huang Yaoshi, Guo Jing and Huang Rong four people went down Mount Hua. Huang Rong demonstrated her superb culinary skill by handpicked the ingredients and cooked some out-of-this-world quality dishes. Hong Qigong ate to his heart’s content.

That very evening four people slept in an inn; Huang Yaoshi father and daughter shared a room, while Guo Jing and Hong Qigong shared another. Early the next morning Guo Jing awoke only to find the other bed empty; Hong Qigong was nowhere to be seen. On the table top he saw three letters written with grease: ‘I am gone’; it was unclear whether the letters were written with a chicken leg’s bone or a pork hoof.

Guo Jing quickly went to the other room to alert Huang Yaoshi father and daughter. Huang Yaoshi simply sighed and said, “Qi Xiong leads a busy life, he is like a divine dragon; we can see its head but not its tail.” He turned his gaze to Jing and Rong couple and said, “Jing’er, your parents have passed away, the closest relative to you would be your Da Shifu Ke Zhen’e. Why don’t you come along with us to the Peach Blossom Island and ask your Da Shifu to act in your parents’ behalf to preside at your wedding with Rong’er?”

Guo Jing was both grieved and joyful, he could not say anything but nodded his head repeatedly. Huang Rong pursed her lips and smiled; she wanted to scold him ‘Dumb’ but looking at her father she refrained from saying so.

Three people traveled together crossing mountains and rivers, heading southeast. In less than a day, they arrived in between the two parts of Zhejiang; the Peach Blossom Island was not too far ahead. Suddenly they heard an eagle’s cry high up in the air; two white eagles were seen flying from the north. Guo Jing was delighted, he whistled and the pair of eagle dived down and perched on his shoulders.

When he left Mongolia Guo Jing was such in a hurry that he did not take his eagles along; but now that they met his joy was unspeakable. He held out his hands to stroke the eagles’ back and then he saw a piece of leather rolled into a small cylinder tied on the male eagle’s foot. Quickly he used his dagger to take the leather and found a letter carved on it. It was written in Mongolian characters and read, ‘We are going south to attack Xiangyang, Knowing my lord’s loyalty to his country I braved death to inform you. I have caused my lord’s mother tragic death, am so ashamed I don’t have the face to see you. I want to say goodbye, am going to the west to live with my eldest brother; won’t come back to my homeland forever. I wish my lord’s good fortune, long life and happiness.’

The letter did not bear any signature, but as soon as he saw it Guo Jing recognized Princess Huazheng’s handwriting. He translated the letter for Huang Yaoshi father and daughter, and asked, “Father-in-law, what do you think?”

Huang Yaoshi answered, “This place is close to Lin’an, but if we inform the royal government they won’t necessarily believe us; even if they did, it will take a long time for them to react. This is an urgent matter; your little red horse is swift. Leave for Xiangyang today. If the garrison commander is willing to cooperate, help him defend the city. If not, kill him and lead the troops and the people to fight the Mongolians. Rong’er and I will wait for you on the Peach Blossom Island.”

Guo Jing asserted his agreement, but Huang Rong’s countenance changed. There was nobody who knows her heart better than her father, so Huang Yaoshi smiled and said, “Very well, Rong’er, you can go too. Come home as soon as you are done; if the government wants to reward you, don’t take it.” Huang Rong was ecstatic, “That’s for sure,” she said.

The young couple took their leave from their father, riding the little red horse heading west. Guo Jing was afraid they would be late; if the Mongolians had already attacked the city, he knew the massacre would be unimaginable; therefore, they continued their journey almost nonstop.

One night they stopped by an inn to spend the night. They were already nearing the two southern roads which linked towards Jiangxi. Guo Jing’s mind was occupied with Huazheng’s letter; he recalled their childhood together, how he, Huazheng and Toulei played together in the desert. And then his mind wandered to things that happened since until today. His heart was depressed. Huang Rong saw he was staring blankly, lost in thought; she sat by the lamp sewing her clothes.

“Rong’er,” suddenly Guo Jing broke the silence, “She said she had caused my mother’s tragic death that she is ashamed to see me ever again; what did she mean by that?”

“Her father had forced your mother to her death; naturally she felt sorry for that,” Huang Rong reasoned.

“Mmm,” Guo Jing mumbled. Lowering his head he tried to recall the scene surrounding his mother’s death. Suddenly he leaped up and slap the table, “I know! So that’s how it is!” Huang Rong was startled that the needle punctured the tip of her finger and a drop of blood came out. She smiled and asked, “What is it? You made a fuss about nothing; what did you know?”

Guo Jing said, “When my mother and I opened the Khan’s secret order and decided to go back south there was nobody around, yet Khan immediately found out and captured us, mother and son. In the end my mother committed suicide and died. Who reported on us? I have been thinking hard about it. Turned out … turned out it was she.”

Huang Rong shook her head, “Princess Huazheng loved you very much; it is impossible for her to betray you.”

“She did not mean to,” Guo Jing explained, “She was outside, accidentally heard everything my mother and I said. She told her father so that Khan would prohibit us from going back home; who would have thought that it ended up in a great tragedy?” Saying thus he sighed and sighed again.

“Because she did that unwittingly, you must go to the west to find her,” Huang Rong said.

Guo Jing disagreed, “I love her as my sister. She is now with her brother in the west; she has all the honor and riches she deserves; why would I go and seek her?”

Huang Rong smiled, secretly she was very happy.

Another day they arrived at the southern Jiangxi town of Shangrao; the horse trotted along the mountain road where the grass was tall. It was a desolate place. Ahead of them was a dark forest thick with trees. High above them the pair of eagles let out a loud angry cry, and then they dived down and in a blink of an eye disappeared into the forest. Jing and Rong knew something was not right, quickly they urged their horse to run ahead.

Winding through the forest path they saw their eagles were spiraling down above a man who was trying to fight them frantically. They came closer and found out that the man was Peng Zhanglao [Elder Peng] from the Beggar Clan.

Peng Zhanglao was brandishing a steel saber trying to protect himself. The saber moved swiftly; although the eagles were brave it would be difficult for them to score victory. The female eagle made a sudden attack from behind and managed to snatch Elder Peng’s head covering, showing a patch of baldness on his head. Peng Zhanglao’s saber swept up, cutting down some of its feathers.

As soon as Huang Rong saw the baldness on Elder Peng’s head she remembered something, “That day the eagle’s breast was injured by a short arrow; turned out it was this evil beggar who did it. Afterwards the pair of eagle fought the criminal again by the ‘qing long tan’ [Green Dragon Shore] where they managed to snatch a piece of scalp; so it was this evil beggar.”

“Surnamed Peng!” Huang Rong loudly called out, “Look who is here.”

Peng Zhanglao lifted up his eye to see two people, he was scared out of his wits; he turned around and ran away. The male eagle dived down and struck the top of his head. Peng Zhanglao swung his saber to protect his head. The female eagle swooped from the side and pecked his left eye. Peng Zhanglao screamed, throwing his saber away he ran without looking where he was going and entered thick thorn bushes nearby. Peng Zhanglao valued his life more than a few stabbing pain from the thorns, so he went even deeper into the bush. The pair of eagles still did not want to let him go, they circled above the thorn bushes.

“He has lost one eye, just let him go,” Guo Jing called his pair of eagles. Suddenly he heard a baby’s noise among the thick patch of grass nearby. “Ah!” Guo Jing cried. Quickly he dismounted his horse and parted the grass only to see a baby sat on the ground. Next to that baby he saw a pair of a woman’s feet. He parted the grass further and saw a woman wearing dark green clothing was fainted on the ground. It was none other than Mu Nianci.

Huang Rong was pleasantly surprised, “Mu Jiejie [Elder sister]!” she cried; then she stoop down to help her up. Guo Jing carried the baby in his arms. The baby’s bright eyes were staring at him intently, they did not show any sign of fear at all.

Huang Rong massaged several acupoints on Mu Nianci’s upper body; then she also pinched the acupoint next to her nose. Mu Nianci slowly regained her consciousness; she opened her eyes and saw these couple. She thought she was dreaming, “You … you are Guo Dage [eldest brother Guo] … Huang Jia Meizi [younger sister from the Huang family] …” “Sister Mu, why are you here? Are you injured?” Guo Jing asked.

Mu Nianci struggled to stand up, but she fell down again; turned out her hands and feet were bound by pieces of ropes. Huang Rong quickly took her dagger out and cut the ropes. Mu Nianci quickly took the baby from Guo Jing’s arms. After calming down herself for half a day bashfully she started to recount what had happened to her.

Turned out Mu Nianci lost her chastity to Yang Kang at the Iron Palm Peak, and she was pregnant. She had hoped to return to her hometown at Lin’an, but when she reached Zhangrao she was too weak to continue; so she found an empty hut in the forest and took a rest. Not too long afterwards she gave birth to a baby boy. Since she had no desire to see other people, she stayed in the forest, hunting and picking up wild fruits to survive. Luckily the baby boy was so smart, so she was comforted amidst her suffering and loneliness. That particular day she took the baby out to gather some fire woods, unfortunately they met with Peng Zhanglao. Seeing her beauty Peng Zhanglao wanted to rape her. Mu Nianci’s martial art was not weak, but Peng Zhanglao was one of the four Elders of the Beggar Clan; he was the peer of Lu Youjiao Zhanglao; second only to the Bangzhu [Clan Leader], Hong Qigong. Naturally Mu Nianci was not his match. She was subdued easily and her hands and feet bound. In her anger and desperation she passed out. If Jing and Rong, two people did not arrive at this exact moment, and with their sharp eyes their pair of eagles spotted their common enemy, Mu Nianci would suffer a terrible fate, molested and disgraced by this evil man.

That evening Jing and Rong spent the night at Mu Nianci’s hut. When Huang Rong told her that Yang Kang had died at the Temple of the Iron Spear in Jiaxing, Mu Nianci’s tears came down like rain. Huang Rong understood the depth of her love to him, so Huang Rong did not dare to tell her the details surrounding his death; she only said that Yang Kang was poisoned by Ouyang Feng. “I did not lie, didn’t he die because of Ouyang Feng’s snake venom?” she said in her heart.

Guo Jing saw the boy was handsome, he recalled how he became sworn brothers with Yang Kang, could not refrain from heaving a deep sigh.

Amidst her tears Mu Nianci said, “Guo Dage, would you give this child a name, please?”

Guo Jing thought for a moment, then said, “His father and I were sworn brothers; it’s a pity he did not finish well. I regretted the fact that I was not able to fulfill my responsibility to steer him from his wrong way of life. I hope when he grows up this child will cross over/change (‘guo’) the mistakes and correct (‘gai’) them; he will uphold justice and righteousness with all his might. I am giving him the name Yang Guo, alias Gaizhi; is it all right with you?”

Mu Nianci thanked him and said, “I hope it would be like just what Guo Dage said.”

Early the next morning Guo Jing and Huang Rong presented Mu Nianci not a few silver ‘liang’s to help them, mother and son, to pass the days. Guo Jing urged her to return to Lin’an; but Mu Nianci shook her head. A moment later she softly said, “We, mother and son, are going to the Temple of the Iron Spear in Jiaxing so he can see his father’s grave.”

Three people bid farewell to each other and Guo Jing and Huang Rong left with heavy hearts.

Two people headed west and arrived at the Hunan-Hubei border, then they turned north and in less than a day they arrived at Xiangyang. They saw the people were calm, the city was prosperous, there was no sign of any military activity; they knew the great Mongolian army had not arrived, they were relieved.

Xiangyang was an important city located on the northern border of the Southern Song Dynasty. It was under the authority of a garrison commander in charge of the troop to defend the border. Guo Jing thought the situation is critical, so without trying to find any inn they went directly to the Commander Lu Wende’s official residence.

This commander was in charge of the whole garrison, he was a high-ranking officer. Even though Guo Jing was a marshal in the Mongolian army, but in the Southern Song Dynasty he was a nobody. How could he seek audience with a high-ranking officer just like that?

Huang Rong knew that money solved everything, so she gave a ‘liang’ of gold to the receptionist. Immediately the receptionist treated them nicely; he looked happy, but still could not guarantee audience that very same day. He said that the earliest opportunity would be half a month away; even then he could not guarantee the commander would be willing to receive Guo Jing.

Guo Jing’s temper flared, “This is an urgent military situation, how can I wait?” he shouted.

Huang Rong quickly cast a meaningful glance toward him, pulled him to the said and whispered, “We’ll comeback tonight.”

They found a temporary lodging, waited until the second hour that night and using their lightness kungfu they went to the commander’s mansion. Commander Lu Wende was having a private party, he hired some professional female entertainer and was having fun with his concubines. Guo and Huang two people jumped down from the roof. Guo Jing cupped his fists, “Xiao Ren [little/lowly people] has an urgent military matter to report,” he said.

Lu Wende was startled, “Assassin!” he shouted; shoving the female entertainers away he went hiding underneath the table.

Guo Jing stepped forward in big strides and said, “Commander, please calm down. Xiao Ren does not have any ill intention toward you.” He pulled the commander back to his seat.

Lu Wende’s face was pale, he kept trembling. Then he saw dozen or so soldiers with their swords and spears ready to rescue him. Huang Rong immediately took out her dagger and pointed it toward Lu Wende’s chest. The soldiers yelling and shouting loudly, but nobody dared to go forward. “Tell them to shut up, we have something to say to you,” Huang Rong said.

Lu Wende was still trembling all over, he signaled the soldiers to be quiet. Guo Jing silently sighed seeing the man who held authority over the troop with a heavy responsibility to guard against the enemy was such a useless fool. He reported that the Mongolian army was going to attack Xiangyang and asked the commander to deploy troops immediately and arranged the necessary defense.

In his heart Lu Wende did not believe him at all, but his mouth repeatedly said yes. Huang Rong saw he kept trembling, “Did you hear what he said?” she asked.

“I did … I heard,” Lu Wende answered. “What did you hear?” Huang Rong pressed.

“That … that the Jin army are planning a sneak attack, must arrange defense, must arrange defense,” Lu Wende mumbled. Huang Rong was angry, “It’s the Mongolian army, not the Jins!” she said.

Lu Wende was scared out of his wits, “Mongolian army? That’s impossible, that’s impossible. The Mongolians have signed an agreement with our minister to fight the Jins together; they won’t breach that agreement.”

Huang Rong was really angry, “I said the Mongolian army! It is the Mongolian army!”

Lu Wende repeatedly nodded his head, “If Miss says it is the Mongolian army, then it is Mongolian army.”

“The whole country and the people’s lives are in the hand of ‘Da Ren’ [lit. big person – common term for government official]. Xiangyang is the Southern Song’s first defense, Da Ren must really care about it,” Guo Jing said.

“Right, right,” Lu Wende said, “What ‘lao xiong’ [‘old chap’] said was absolutely right.”

Jing and Rong two people sighed. They leaped over the wall and went out, amidst the chaotic shouting, “Catch the assassins! Catch the assassins!”

Two people waited for two more days, but did not see any increased activity on the city wall at all. “This Commander is to be cursed!” Guo Jing said, “Father-in-law was right, I’d better kill him and think about something later.”

“The enemy will arrive within the next few days,” Huang Rong said, “Killing this dog government official is not enough. The city will certainly be chaotic, the troops will not have anybody to lead them; it will be difficult to fight the enemy.”

Guo Jing creased his brows, “Then, what do we do?”

Huang Rong hesitated, “The ‘zuo zhuan’ [lit. left biography] has a story called ‘xian gao kao shi’ [Xian Gao presenting a gift to an army]. We might be able to follow this example.”

Guo Jing was delighted, “Rong’er, reading books truly brings endless wonders. What story was that? Quickly narrate it for me. Can we do it?”

Huang Rong said, “We can do it, but it all depends on your body.” Guo Jing was puzzled, “What?”

Huang Rong did not answer, but she softly laughed.

A moment later she continued, “Very well, I’ll narrate the story for you to hear. During the ‘chun qiu’ period [spring and autumn, ca. 770-476 BC] in the Zheng country there was a merchant whose name was Xian Gao. While doing business out of town he came across the Qin army who was going to attack the Zheng country. That time the Zhengs were not prepared, therefore, if the Qins attacked they would surely perish. Even though Xian Gao was a businessman he was also a patriot. He cooked up a plan. He dispatched a courier traveling at night to alert his country, while he himself prepared twelve oxen and requested an audience with the enemy’s general. He said he represented the Zheng government to present a gift for the Qin army. The Qin’s army general thought that the Zheng had already prepared to battle; he did not dare to proceed and pulled the army back to their own country.”

Guo Jing was delighted, “That was a wonderful story; but what does it have to do with my body?” he asked. Huang Rong laughed, “Didn’t he use twelve oxen? Your zodiac is the ox, isn’t it?”

Guo Jing threw his hands in desperation, “Good! You used a story to indirectly curse me.” He stretched his fingers to tickle Huang Rong. Huang Rong laughed and ran away.

After having a good laugh, Huang Rong said, “Tonight we’ll plunder the Commander’s residence for gold and precious jewels. Tomorrow I will disguise myself as a male government officer and welcome the great army of Mongolia. We’ll see whether we can deceive them to withdraw their troops.”

Guo Jing applauded. That very evening two people plundered the Commander’s mansion. They found Lu Wende had amassed riches as high as a mountain. They took away a large amount of gold and jewels plus a set of government official’s costume; while the people inside the mansion slumbered.

Huang Rong dressed herself in the costume and she was transformed into a handsome high-ranking officer. Taking the gold and jewelry she rode the little red horse headed north.

Guo Jing was waiting for the news from Huang Rong outside the north gate about mid-day on the second day when he saw the little red horse came galloping fast; dust flying behind. Huang Rong pulled the rein; her face was ashen. With a trembling voice she said, “The Mongolian army is more than a hundred thousand strong; how can we fight them?”

Guo Jing was shocked! “That many?” he muttered.

“Looked like Genghis Khan has determined to crush the Southern Song in one swoop,” Huang Rong said, “I presented the gift to the commander of their vanguard regiment. He did not know that we are already aware of their real intention; he said they were going to attack the Jins and not the Songs. When I told him point blankly he was startled and immediately held their movement and sent words to their general.”

“It certainly is best if they decided to withdraw, but I am afraid … I am afraid …,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong raised her beautiful eyebrows. “Judging from their preparation, they won’t withdraw that easily.” “Can you think of another wonderful idea?” Guo Jing asked.

Huang Rong shook her head. “I have racked my brain for a whole day and a whole night. Brother Jing, if we fight one on one, there are probably only two or three people in the world that can defeat you; even if the enemy is ten or a hundred men strong, we won’t be deterred by them; but the enemy is thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands strong; what can we do?”

Guo Jing heaved a deep sigh. “Our Great Song people are actually dozens times more than the Mongolians. If all the millions people are all of one mind; why would we fear the Mongolian army? It’s a pity our government officials are cowards and fools; that the people have to suffer.”

“The Mongolians are not here yet; even if they were, we can always kill some of them. If the situation becomes really critical we can still depend on the little red horse to escape. The anxiety of this world is enough to burden us down,” Huang Rong said.

Guo Jing’s expression changed, “Rong’er, please don’t say such a thing. Both of us have already learned the art of war from the book ‘Wu Mu’ [General Yue Fei] left behind; how can we forget Yue Wu Mu’s teachings, ‘jin zhong bao guo’ [with utmost loyalty serving the country]? Even though the two of us won’t make significant contribution, but we must dedicate our lives to defend the country will all of our might. Even if we have to lay down our lives here, we won’t let our parents’ and masters’ upbringing in vain.”

Huang Rong sighed, “I knew early on that it would be difficult to avoid a day like this. All right! You live I live, you die I will also die!”

Once these two made a decision, their hearts were peaceful. They returned to their lodging immediately, drinking and chatting. They knew the enemy was threatening the border; they knew they might part forever, so they felt closer than in the previous days.

They were drinking until about the second hour that evening, when suddenly a commotion outside the city wall was heard. It was so loud and sounded really bad. “They are here!” Huang Rong called out.

Two people jumped and rushed to the top of the city wall to see outside the city thousands of refugees had arrived; young and old, endless streams of people rushing to the city. Who would have expected that the captain of the guards had ordered the soldiers to shut the gate tightly; not allowing the refugees to enter the city? Not too long afterwards Lu Wende sent reinforcement with bows and arrows. They started shooting toward the refugees, forcing them to withdraw from the city wall.

“The Mongolian soldiers come and kill us!” the refugees loudly shout. But the captain did not open the gate. The refugees under the city wall cried and screamed, their voices shook the sky.

Jing and Rong two people stood atop the city wall; they looked as far as their eyes could see, and saw in the distant a column of torches flickering in the wind coming near. The vanguard regiment of the Mongolian army had arrived.

Guo Jing had served under the Genghis Khan for quite a while. He knew that the Mongolian’s tactic to break city walls was forcing refugees to flee into the city and attack as soon as the city gate was open. Guo Jing saw tens of thousands of refugees gathered around the city gate; as soon as the army arrived, they would kill everybody, outside and inside the Xiangyang’s city wall.

In this critical moment Guo Jing made up his mind. He stood on top of the city wall, he raised his arm and loudly shouted, “If the Mongolian army breaks Xiangyang’s wall, nobody will live. Men of valor, quickly follow me to kill the enemy!”

The captain of the guards at the north gate was one of Lu Wende’s trusted aides; hearing Guo Jing’s shout he was angry, “A traitor trying to trouble people’s mind; arrest him!”

Guo Jing leaped down from the top of the city wall; stretching his right arm he grabbed the captain’s chest, lifted his body up and mounted his horse. There were many patriots among the soldiers and people of the Central Plains. They saw how the refugees were crying bitterly outside the city wall; they were indignant. This time Guo Jing grabbed the captain they could not help but feel pleasantly surprised; obviously nobody went forward to rescue the captain.

Guo Jing barked his order, “Quick, tell the soldiers to open the gate!”

The captain was a coward; he had no alternative but to comply. The north gate was opened, and the refugees came flooding in.

Guo Jing handed out the captain to Huang Rong while he himself took a spear and went out of the city gate on the horse back. “Wait!” Huang Rong called. She took the captain’s helmet and armor and put them on Guo Jing. “Use a fake imperial decree; command the troop to go out of the city,” she whispered in Guo Jing’s ear. With the back of her hand Huang Rong struck the captain’s acupoint and threw him by the city gate.

Guo Jing thought it was a great idea, so he shouted loud and clear, “Hear the imperial decree: Due to his incapability, the Garrison Commander Lu Wende is removed from his duty. The army is to follow me going out of the city and fight the enemy.” His speech was supported by profound internal strength; so that although the city was in chaos but his voice was clearly heard above the clamoring people. For a brief moment everybody was quiet. In this panic-stricken situation who could differentiate whether the decree was real or not? Almost everybody in the army, from top to bottom, did not hold Lu Wende in high regard; they knew he was a coward, afraid of death. This time a powerful enemy was threatening their border. In this time of panic suddenly hearing that the corrupt official is being removed from his office and somebody stepping up to lead them to face the enemy, they were cheering with one voice.

Guo Jing lead about six, seven thousands of infantry and cavalry troops going out of the city. They were not observing military discipline, the troop was scattered in disorder; how could they be compared to the refined Mongolian army?

Guo Jing recalled Yue Fei’s book had this principle, ‘in a critical situation, use unconventional tactic’, he ordered over three thousands soldiers and their sergeants to hide on the eastern hillside; as they heard the canon once, they were to shout at the top of their lungs, raising and waving flags, but did not go out to fight the enemy. Then he ordered another three thousands soldiers and their sergeants to hide on the western hillside; as they heard the canon twice, they were to do the same.

Both companies could see Guo Jing’s confidence, giving up orders with ease and competence; they accepted the command and went to their respective positions.

It was already dawn when the entire refugees had entered the city. They heard the drums and the battle cry, the sound of iron horseshoes treading on the ground. They also saw the dust rising from the earth; the vanguard regiment of Mongolian army had arrived at the city wall.

Huang Rong had also donned battle armor; mounting on a horse she took a spear and rode next to Guo Jing to face death. Guo Jing gave his order loud and clear, “Open wide all four city gates! Everybody in the city hide inside the houses. Whoever dares to come out will be beheaded immediately!”

Actually he did not need to issue this order; early on everybody in the city had disappeared into the houses, while the brave soldiers had positioned themselves on the east and western hillsides. Lu Wende hid underneath a table, busily read his prayers with a trembling voice.

Hundreds of Mongolian cavalry galloped like the wind spreading out along the city wall; they saw Xiangyang’s city gate was wide open and a pair of young people, a man and a woman, on horsebacks with spears in their hands. Their horses stood in front of the hanging bridge across the moat.

The vanguard regiment’s ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of a thousand unit] felt strange; he did not dare to proceed without authorization. Quickly he dispatched a messenger to the ‘wan fu zhang’ [leader of a ten thousand unit]. The ‘wan fu zhang’ was a veteran; listening to this strange report he rode his horse to the city wall. When he saw Guo Jing he was shocked. He had joined the expedition to the west, time and again he had seen Guo Jing’s strange and wonderful tactics in battle. Guo Jing’s troops were invincible. His paratroopers flying down and breaking Samarkhand defense was a legend, making Guo Jing the object of full admiration of the whole Mongolian army; as a matter of fact, his accomplishments were still the talk of the troops. This time he saw Guo Jing was standing in front of the city, while the city looked empty and deserted; how could he dare to attack? Immediately he dismounted his horse, raised his hands in salute and called out, “Jin dao fu ma [golden blade consort], your subordinate pays his respect.”

Guo Jing returned his salute, but did not say anything. That ‘wan fu zhang’ withdrew and flew to report to his commander-in-chief. About an hour or so later a group of riders bearing a large military banner came near; a young looking general came forward to the bridge. It was the Fourth Prince Tuolei. He shouted, “Guo Jing Anda [Mongolian term for sworn brother], how are you?”

Guo Jing moved his horse forward and said, “Tuolei Anda, so it is you?”

Whenever these two sworn brothers met in the past, they would always hugged each other in delight, but this time both of them held their horses’ reins when they were still about five ‘zhang’s [about 50 feet or 15 meters] apart as if they had a prior agreement.

“Anda, you are leading your troop to attack my Great Song, are you not?” Guo Jing asked.

“I bear my ‘fu huang’s [Emperor Father] decree, I don’t have liberty. I ask for your forgiveness,” Tuolei replied.

Guo Jing swept his gaze across the field; he saw flags fluttering like clouds, the blades gleaming white like snow; he did not know for sure how many soldiers were there. “Once this cavalry attacks, I, Guo Jing, will give up my life,” he thought. With a clear voice he said, “Very well! Then go ahead and take my life!”

Tuolei was taken aback, he mused, “This man commands an army like a deity, truly I am not his match; much less he and I are as close as flesh and blood brothers. How could I injure this sworn brother’s relationship?” He hesitated and did not know what to do.

Huang Rong turned her head and signaled with her right hand. Immediately the soldiers in the city shot a canon. As soon as they heard the canon, the soldiers on the eastern hillside raised their voices and waved their flags. Tuolei’s face changed. The canon was shot again, and the soldiers on the western hillside were also shouting loudly. Tuolei thought, “Not good! I fell into his ambush.”

Tulei had served under Genghis Khan fighting to the east and attacking to the west; he had been in countless battles. What major battle he had not seen? How could this little ambush by several thousands soldiers scare him? It was because during the expedition to the west Guo Jing had demonstrated wonderful and strange warfare. Tuolei was already scared of Guo Jing. Now he saw the situation was unusual, he was afraid he might fall into Guo Jing’s trap. He gave an order for his troops to withdraw about thirty ‘li’s and pitched a camp there.

Seeing the Mongolian army retreat, Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other and smiled. “Jing Gege, congratulations on your empty city tactic.”

Guo Jing smiled, but his face still showed anxiety, he said, “Tuolei is smart and brave. He retreated today, but he will be back tomorrow. How would we fight him?”

Huang Rong hesitated for half a day before opened her mouth, “I have an idea, but I am afraid you love your sworn brother too much and will not be willing to do it.”

Guo Jing’s heart turned cold, “You want me to assassinate him?” he asked.

“He is the youngest and most beloved son of the Great Khan,” Huang Rong replied, “Unlike other senior generals, he holds incomparable honors. If the Fourth Prince dies, the troops will retreat immediately.”

Guo Jing lowered his head without saying anything; they turned back and entered the city. Seeing the enemy retreat, the troops marched back to the city, still in disorderly manner. Lu Wende heard how Guo Jing made the enemy retreat simply by talking; he was overjoyed and immediately paid two people a visit at their lodgings, inviting them back to his mansion for a drink.

Guo Jing wanted to discuss city defense with him, but as soon as Lu Wende heard that the Mongolian army would be back the next day his knees weakened and he was speechless for half a day. When he finally opened his mouth what he said was, “Prepare a sedan chair, I am going home. Prepare a sedan chair, I am going home.” He determined to abandon the city and head south that very same night.

Guo Jing was very depressed, he could not eat. The sky gradually darkened. He heard people crying all over the city. He was afraid that by this time the next day there wouldn’t be a single living Great Song people in Xiangyang. He had seen not a few times where the Mongolian troops were on a killing spree, washing the city wall they subdued with the blood of the people. He could never take the massacre of the people of Samarkhand out of his mind. “Crack!” he slapped the table with his palm and shouted, “Rong’er, the people of old sacrificed their own family for the country; today how can I concern myself with sworn brotherhood?”

Huang Rong sighed, “This is actually a very difficult matter.”

As soon as his mind was made up, Guo Jing changed into night clothing. Together with Huang Rong they rode the little red horse toward the Mongolian camp. They stopped at a hill nearby to leave the red horse then walked the rest of the way, looking for Tuolei’s tent.

They caught two night watch guards, sealed their acupoints, and donned their uniforms. Guo Jing grew up among the Mongolian warriors; he spoke their language, and was familiar with Mongolian army regulations; so without too much effort they found the big tent where Tuolei slept.

It was a pitch black night; two people crouched down behind the big tent, peeking inside through the tent seams. They saw Tuolei was pacing back and forth, his face gloomy. Tuolei was muttering, “Guo Jing, Anda! Anda, Guo Jing.”

Guo Jing was startled; he thought his presence had been detected. He almost opened his mouth to answer when Huang Rong, who had anticipated early on what would happen, immediately covered his mouth with her hand. Guo Jing silently cursed his own stupidity, he felt partly funny, partly mad at himself.

Huang Rong whispered in his ear, “Do it now, a real man takes the bull by the horns; wavering is useless.”

Right at that moment they heard a distant sound of horse hoof galloping fast; the sound was getting closer as the rider came toward the big tent. Guo Jing knew it was an urgent military dispatch, so he bent back down and whispered in Huang Rong’s ear, “I want to listen to the military situation, it won’t be too late to kill him later.”

They saw the messenger dressed in yellow dismount his horse and enter the tent. He bowed to Tuolei, “Fourth Prince, a message from the Great Khan,” he said.

“What did the Great Khan say?” Tuolei asked. The messenger bent his knees and started to sing. The Mongolian culture had not been developed too long; although they had written words, Genghis Khan was not literate; he could neither read nor write. The decree would be issued orally; and to avoid mistakes in the transmission, oftentimes the decree was made into a song which the messenger memorized and recited over and over along the way before finally delivering it to the recipient.

The messenger only sang three lines when Toulei and Guo Jing were both shocked; Tuolei even shed some tears. It turned out that after the expedition to the west Genghis Khan got sick; for the last few days he got worse, sometimes he lost consciousness. He summoned Tuolei to go back home as soon as he could. At the end of his message he said that he missed Guo Jing very much; and if Tuolei in the south knew his whereabouts, to invite him back north and bade farewell with the Great Khan. Khan had pardoned every single offense he had committed.

Listening to this part Guo Jing used his dagger to rip open the tent. He jumped in and called out, “Tuolei Anda, I am coming with you.” Tuolei was startled, but seeing it was Guo Jing his delight was unspeakable. Finally they both hugged each other.

The messenger recognized Guo Jing, he stepped forward and kneeled in front of Guo Jing and said, “Jin dao fu ma, the Great Khan requested you come to the Golden Tent to see him.”

Hearing the messenger still called him ‘jin dao fu ma’ Guo Jing was anxious for fear that Huang Rong would make a big deal out of it. Immediately he jumped out through the rip on the tent and pull Huang Rong’s hand, “Rong’er, you and I will go together and return together.”

Huang Rong lowered her head but did not say anything. “Don’t you believe me?” Guo Jing nervously asked.

Huang Rong smiled sweetly, “If you are still thinking of becoming ‘fu ma’ or ‘fu niu’ [fu ma – consort, ma – horse, niu – cow], I’ll kill you with this dagger.”

That very evening Tuolei issued an order to withdraw the army; they would be leaving at daybreak.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong went back to get the red horse and their pair of eagles, ready to leave with the army heading north the next morning.

Tuolei was afraid he would not be able to see his father, so he delegated his command to his second in command, while he himself sped up north with Guo Jing and Huang Rong.

In less than a month they had arrived at Genghis Khan’s golden tent. From the distant Tuolei saw in front of the golden tent nine big banners were still fluttering in the wind. He knew the Khan was still well; he shouted in joy and urged the horse to run faster.

Guo Jing held his rein. He recalled Khan’s generosity in raising him up; yet the same Khan had caused the tragic death of his mother. He loved and hated Khan at the same time. He lowered his head and did not say anything.

Suddenly he heard the bugle being sounded, two rows of Khan’s personal guards lined up in front of the Golden Tent. Genghis Khan, wearing a black eagle’s feather coat, walked out in big strides supported by Tuolei’s shoulder. His footsteps were as majestic as in days past, but he was trembling slightly.

Guo Jing rushed forward and kneeled down. Genghis Khan’s eyes were brimming with tears, with a trembling voice he said, “Get up, get up! I am thinking of you every day.”

Guo Jing stood up. He saw the Great Khan’s face was full of wrinkles; his cheeks were deep, it looked like his days in this world were numbered. Suddenly he felt he did not hate Khan that much anymore.

Genghis Khan placed his other hand on Guo Jing’s left shoulder. He looked at Tuolei, then at Guo Jing, and heaved a deep sigh. He lifted up his eyes to the distant desert and stood silent, lost in thought. Guo Jing and Tuolei did not know what he was thinking, they did not dare to make any noise.

After a long time Genghis Khan sighed, “A long time ago Anda Jamuqa and I became sworn brothers; who would have thought that there came a day when I had no choice but to kill him. I have become the Great Khan; he died under my own hands. A few more days and what difference will we have? Won’t I be the same with him, return to the yellow dirt? Who succeeds and who fails, in the end what difference does it make?” Tapping both men’s shoulders he continued, “You two have to live in harmony from the beginning to the end; don’t ever think of killing each other. Anda Jamuqa had died, the matter between us is finished; but every time I remembered our brotherhood, many, many nights I could not close my eyes to sleep.”

Tuolei and Guo Jing remembered how they almost killed each other outside the Xiangyang’s city gate, they were secretly ashamed.

After standing up for a while Genghis Khan felt tired. He was about to return to his tent when suddenly a small group of riders approached fast. The one in the front wore a white robe with a golden belt on his waist. As soon as Genghis Khan saw his enemy, his spirit rose.

The men held their reins quite a distance away, dismounted their horses and anxiously stepped forward. They kneeled on the ground from a far, did not dare to approach at all. Respectfully the leader said, “The Jin emissary seeks an audience with the Great Khan.”

“The Jin is not willing to surrender, what does it want by sending someone to see me?” Genghis Khan angrily asked. That emissary bowed to the ground and said, “Our lowly country realized that we have been too bold; offending the divine power of the Great Khan; a crime deserving death. We are offering one thousand pearls to appease the Great Khan’s anger; we are asking the Great Khan to pardon our sins. These thousand pearls are our country’s heritage treasure; we earnestly hope the Great Khan would accept this humble gift.” The emissary took a big bundle from his back, produced a jade tray, and again from his sack poured innumerable pearls onto the tray. He knelt on the ground and lifted the tray high above his head with both hands.

Genghis Khan slightly squinted and looked at the pearls; those were big pearls, about the size of a fingertip each, surrounding a giant pearl in the middle of the tray. Just one pearl would worth a fortune, let alone a thousand of them. Except for the giant pearl in the middle, the rest of them were roughly of the same size. The pearls were gleaming brilliantly under the sun light; there was a layer of rainbow-like light above the jade tray.

On a normal day Genghis Khan would love this kind of gift; but that particular day he only raised his eyebrows and to his personal guard said, “Take it.” The personal guard took the jade tray.

Seeing the Great Khan accepted the gift, the emissary’s joy was unbounded. He said, “The Great Khan has accepted our humble gift; our lowly nation, from the ruler to the people, are very grateful.”

Genghis Khan was indignant, “Who said I accept your gift? I am going to dispatch my army to attack the Jin dogs left and right. Seize him!” His personal guards immediately surrounded the emissary and his men.

“Even if there are a thousand more pearls, it is still difficult for me to live longer!” Genghis Khan sighed. He took the jade tray from his guard and threw everything high in the air; the pearls scattered everywhere. Everybody was startled.

Many of these pearls were later picked up by the Mongolian soldiers and people; but many more were still hidden among the tall grass that hundreds of years later lucky herdsmen would find them.

Genghis Khan was indifferent, he returned to his tent.

That evening just before dusk he told Guo Jing to accompany him for a stroll along the prairie. Two people on horseback had ridden for about a dozen of ‘li’s when they heard the cry of eagles high above their heads. They looked up and saw Guo Jing’s pair of eagles circling in the air. Genghis Khan fetched his iron bow and aimed the arrow toward the female eagle.

“Great Khan, don’t shoot!” Guo Jing cried out in alarm.

Although Genghis Khan was feeble, his hand was still quick; by the time Guo Jing cried, the arrow had already left the bow. Guo Jing secretly groaned, he was fully aware that Genghis Khan had an outstanding physical strength. Once the arrow left his bow his beloved eagle would be killed for sure. Who would have thought that the eagle was able to skew itself and sweep its wing to strike the arrow. The male eagle was angry, it let out a long cry and dived to strike Genghis Khan’s head.

“Eagle, you want to die?” Guo Jing barked and raised his whip to hit the male eagle. The male eagle saw its master was angry flew back to the sky, letting out a loud cry a pair of eagles soared to the sky.

Genghis Khan was dejected, he threw his bow and arrow to the ground and sadly said, “For dozens of years this is the first time I could not shoot an eagle down; I guess my time is drawing really near.”

Gou Jing wanted to console him but actually he did not know anything good to say. Suddenly Genghis Khan kicked his legs and his horse sped to the north. Guo Jing was afraid he would be lost, so he urged his horse to follow. The little red horse ran like the wind and in a blink of an eye they caught up with the Great Khan.

Genghis Khan held his rein; looking at all direction he suddenly said, “Jing’er, I built this great country; no other dynasty, past or future, can match its splendor. It will take one full year to travel from the center of my kingdom to the outermost part of it, east, west, south and north. Tell me, among the heroes of the world, who achieved more than I do?”

Guo Jing hesitated a moment before answering, “Great Khan’s accomplishment is exceptional, no one can match it since time immemorial. However, for Great Khan one person to achieve this level of awe-inspiring power, I don’t know how many bones have been piled up, how many orphans and widows out there, and how many tears have been shed?”

Genghis Khan’s eyebrows were raised. He lifted his horsewhip high, ready to strike Guo Jing’s head; but seeing Guo Jing imposingly looking at him without any trace of fear in his eyes, his whip stopped midair. He roared, “What did you say?”

Guo Jing said in his heart, “After today the days for me to say goodbye to the Great Khan are numbered; even if I provoke him to anger I have to make him understand what’s in my heart.” Therefore, fearlessly he said, “Great Khan, you raised me up and taught me, yet you also caused my mother’s tragic death. This is personal grudge and gratitude; let us not talk about it. I only want to ask you: when somebody died and buried, how much land would he occupy?”

Genghis Khan was startled, but he answered anyway, “About this big,” he made a circle with his whip.

Guo Jing said, “That’s right. Then you killed so many people, shed so much blood, and invaded so many countries; in the end, what’s the use of all that?”

Genghis Khan was silent. Guo Jing continued, “The true measure of a real hero, the one admired by the future generation, is how much he did for the benefit of his people; who always seek the good of the common people. In my opinion, someone who killed many people is not necessarily a hero.” [Translator’s note: the word ‘hero’ here is ‘ying xiong’.]

“Are you saying that in all my life I did not do a single good deed?” Genghis Khan asked.

“Good deeds, certainly there are many, but you attacked the south and conquered the west, piling dead bodies like a mountain. Whether that act could be considered right or wrong, might be very difficult to say,” Guo Jing answered. His natural disposition was simple and straightforward, he said what was in his heart.

All of his life Genghis Khan was a conceited man, nobody dared to tell him anything. This time he was scolded by a youngster, worse yet, he found it difficult to refute what Guo Jing had said. He looked back to his past, also looked around him on the horseback. He felt something is suddenly taken away from him. Half a day later, ‘wah!’ he spurted fresh blood to the ground.

Guo Jing was scared, he realized his tongue had been too sharp; busily he held out his hand to support the Khan and said, “Great Khan, let’s go back and rest. I have been too bold and affronted you, I beg for your forgiveness.”

Genghis Khan gave a slight wry smile, his face was pale like a yellow wax, he sighed, “Among the people around me, there is none who is as bold as you are, dare to tell me what you really think in your heart.” Immediately his eyebrows were raised, put an arrogant face and proudly said, “I have wandered back and fro over the earth, crushing countless countries, yet in your opinion I can’t be counted as a hero? Hey! It truly is childish talk!” He raised his whip and struck his horse’s back, speeding back to his tent.

That very evening Genghis Khan collapsed inside his Golden Tent. Just before he died he mumbled, “Hero … hero …” Apparently he had been pondering in his heart what Guo Jing had said earlier.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong paid their final respect to the Great Khan; and after bidding Tuolei farewell, they headed south that very same day.

Along the way two people saw the white bones that were scattered among the tall grass of the prairie; they could not refrain from lamenting incessantly; both were thinking that the two of them loved each other, they would live harmoniously, they did not have any regrets; yet the common people’s misery was deep; they did not know the day peace and prosperity would reign on earth. It was as written:

After the soldiers and fire become ashes,

Only then the poor village sprouting families. No one’s to know when the war is over,

Until they are buried in the cold sand under the waning moon.

(The end of the entire book. The narration of Guo Jing, Huang Rong, and the others’ accomplishment is continued in the ‘Divine Eagle, Gallant Knight’.)

THE END

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