The Return of the Condor Heroes Chapter 26-30

@Chapter 26 – Divine Eagle's Heavy Sword
Xiao Longnu saw the Quanzhen Sect's group of Taoists riot, the Mongolian warriors raiding on a large scale, every dispute seemed from her viewpoint like a cloud of mist, she paid no attention to them. But seeing Lu Qingdu raise his sword to kill Yin Zhiping, how could she let someone try to kill him? Therefore, she immediately ran up front to block the attack.

When Zhao Zhijing saw Xiao Longnu suddenly advancing into the temple, he felt delighted: "Throughout the whole journey I've been chased by you without a moment's pause  for  breath;  now,  with  so  many experts around, you're literally searching for death, it truly is a gift from heaven!"  He  called  out:  "The demon girl is not a good person, seize her for me!" The  Mongolian  warriors  didn't  take  notice  of  his orders; they didn't even lift a finger. Zhao Zhijing's two close followers heard their master's command, rushed forward, and tried to grab both her arms.

Before their hands reached her sleeve, the fight, from their perspective, was moving as fast as lightning, and then their wrists felt a burst of severe pain. In haste they leapt back. What had happened was that from her waist Xiao Longnu pulled out two swords. In the blink of an eye, their wrists were struck by the swords; the carpal bones were almost broken and the wrists were drenched with blood. The move was extremely quick; people did not have time to clearly see how she brought out the swords, attacked the two Taoists, wounded them and moved away. Those watching couldn't help but feel startled.

Lu Qingdu called out: "Great comrades let's attack together, our many hands will provide great strength. Who cares what that demon girl’s origins are?" He thought that however skilful Xiao Longnu might be, she's merely a young woman; once everybody rushes forward, their victory is assured. The vanguard thrust their swords to pierce Xiao Longnu. Xiao Longnu’s sharp swords vibrated, Lu Qingdu’s left wrist, right wrist, left leg, and right leg had been struck by her sword, with a loud howl, he collapsed on the floor. The thrust of the two swords was even quicker than before; even experts such as Xiaoxiang Zi and Yin Kexi gazed at each other with pale faces. They'd previously seen her fight Gongsun Zhi at Passionless Valley. At that time her sword stances were fine and ingenious, but they were definitely not as unbelievable as they were now.

Xiao Longnu was taught how to separate her mind for two uses by Zhou Botong, the Left/Right Mutual Combat Technique; between her innate abilities and his teaching, her martial arts had multiplied. With Yang Guo forming the Dueling Sword Combination and using the 'Pure Heart of the Jade Maiden Sword Technique', few have matched it under the heavens. Now, as one person, she can use two swords simultaneously, with outstanding power. Regardless of how two people's intentions are interlinked with each other, it's still inferior to one person's lightning-like alertness during battle. At this moment, although her sword method's energy and strength weren't as good as two people teaming up, her moves are faster in comparison by many times.

Throughout her lengthy trailing of Yin Zhiping and Zhao Zhijing, she was depressed for days on end, not knowing what way to dispose of them. Within that moment that the Quanzhen Taoist's commander launched an attack, she took the opportunity to retaliate. Once she saw blood on the tip of her sword, she felt grief and indignation; suddenly she broke away from her attackers. Seeing her white garment drifting about, like cold flickering light and both swords seeming like two silver snakes wandering inside the temple. Ding-dong, qiang-long sounds accompanied by comments of "Oh!", "This is bad" were heard. Instantly, the Quanzhen Taoists’ swords dropped on the floor, everyone of them had felt the thrust of her swords on their wrists. Even more bizarre was that she used the same maneuver "Hoary Wrist Jade Bracelet", yet all that the Taoists saw was the flash of the sword brush past their eyes. Their wrists felt intense pain and they were left helpless. They had been easily disposed of with no chance to parry any of the strikes. This group of Taoists could have been killed effortlessly one by one.

After the Taoists were injured, they withdrew in deep shock. In front of the three statues were Yin Zhiping and a bunch of bound Taoists.

Xiao Longnu studied her Left/Right Mutual Combat Technique alone and practiced it a couple of times in the wilderness, but she'd never exchanged blows with anyone. Today she had the opportunity to try out these new techniques, and even she could not have dreamed of possessing such might; she was unexpectedly startled.

Realizing the situation wasn't fortuitous; Zhao Zhijing rapidly pulled a sword  from  his  Taoist  robe  to protect himself, and at the same time retreated. Xiao Longnu was full of hatred towards him and as she moved in, both swords completely blocked the routes to his front and back. Zhao Zhijing brandished his sword in order to gain a path, but only the ding-dang sounds of swords clashing could be heard.

Yin Kexi said: "You won't succeed, get out of the way!" He had already obstructed Xiao Longnu's sword as he lashed out his Golden Dragon Whip. Xiao Longnu had injured 10 people one after another, up to this point, but one person was able to catch her single sword.

Xiao Longnu spoke: "Today I came here to seek my revenge against the Quanzhen Sect's Taoists, it does not involve others, stay out of the way."

Now Yin Kexi saw how her sword was chasing like wind and clouds, even he lost his nerve. But he was, after all, a first-class expert; he could not cower in fear because of someone's words. So he laughed and replied: "Among the Quanzhen Sect's Taoists the good and bad are intermingled; there are a dozen few who deserve to be killed, but who are those that offended you and deserve to die Miss?"

Xiao Longnu made an "ng" sound, and didn't pay further attention to him. Yin Kexi thought, “First I will establish a friendship with her so even if I'm no match for her, it won't result in death. If the situation is not right he would concede defeat. If other people know that we're acquainted with each other, they won't ridicule me for being cowardly”. Consequently he laughingly called out: "Dragon Girl, don't waste any more time, your precious body is pure and healthy!" Xiao Longnu made another "ng" sound, her eyes did not move away from Yin Zhiping and Zhao Zhijing, fearing that they might seize an opportunity to slip away. Yin Kexi uttered: "Don’t dirty your hands on the deceitful Taoists, just point them out. Let me offer my services, and one by one they will be punished for Miss."

Xiao Longnu replied: "Good! Then kill him for me first." She pointed at Zhao Zhijing.

Yin Kexi thought: "This person has been imperially conferred by the Mongolian Da-Han, how can I kill him?" Then he laughed: "Immortal Zhao treats others very well, I'm afraid there's been some misunderstanding Miss. I'll tell him to come to Miss and apologize in front of you!"

Xiao Longnu’s beautiful eyebrows slightly frowned. She thrust her left sword out, as fast as a  bolt  of lightning, heading for Yin Kexi. Yin Kexi hurriedly raised his whip to ward it off. There was one sound of "Ah"; for standing behind was Zhao Zhijing who was stabbed in the shoulder. Xiaoxiang Zi and his class of experts couldn't tell how the thrust was made. They all assumed it was the right hand sword that was thrust out, twisting past Yin Kexi's body, and piercing the person hiding behind him.

Yin Kexi was deeply surprised, he thought, “This sword may not have hit me, but I was powerless to guard Zhao Zhijing, that is also a disgrace”. His opponent's move was very fast, he just couldn't follow her twin sword's route and oncoming force; if he continued to fight her in this way he will definitely lose. The more he thought of this, the more cowardly he became; with a swing of the Golden Dragon Whip, he bellowed: "Miss Dragon Girl, please be merciful!" Xiao Longnu didn't care since she didn't regard him as an enemy, or a friend; without slowing her pace, she stepped twice to the left. Yin Kexi followed with one turn, still wanting to protect Zhao Zhijing, but suddenly heard moaning behind him. Slowly turning his head around, he saw Zhao Zhijing's robe sleeves had been neatly split into two parts by the point of her sword and blood came running from the wounds. How Xiao Longnu had pierced him, the other people were still completely baffled by it. Her rapid and skilful sword methods had reached a point where not only do her routes leave no trace, it's as if she can block one person and still injure her foe at will.

Zhao Zhijing has been consecutively pierced twice. Realizing that Yin Kexi's martial arts were average, he knew he could not count on him for protection. In imminent danger he took a deep breath and scurried over to the side of Xiaoxiang Zi. Xiao Longnu acted as though she never noticed it. She turned her body and with force, aimed her left hand sword at Yin Kexi, yet her right sword was directed at Nimoxing's chest. Whilst supporting himself with his left hand on his crutch, Nimoxing's right hand used the steel snake to block. But then he heard Zhao Zhijing crying out loudly, followed by a 'qiang-long' sound, as his sword fell. His wrist has been poked by her sword yet again. That move was even more peculiar. It was obvious that Xiao Longnu was far beyond him. Somehow, while attacking two formidable fighters, she managed to find time to wound him again.

Xiaoxiang Zi grunted and said: "Miss Dragon Girl's sword techniques are not bad at all; I also want to challenge you." His left hand threw a palm from his side, but at that instant Zhao Zhijing felt a great force meeting his shoulder. He lost his footing, and flew several zhang (ten+feet) away. Fortunately his inner energy has considerable foundation; though his body may have been wounded three times, he was able to get up on his feet. Xiaoxiang Zi's palm force had not yet arrived and the cane attacked at the same moment.

Ma Guangzuo had long been good friends with Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu; his mind felt that this was far from right, and spoke loudly: "Three Wulin Masters ganging up on a young girl. Don't you want to save face?”

Once Xiaoxiang Zi and others heard this, their faces showed signs of anger. Throughout their lives they had paid no attention to such things as virtue or morality; however arrogance, pride, and dignity were still regarded as extremely important to their identity. To mention three people ganging up, why, they wouldn't even consider fighting such a young girl even one-on-one. But they knew, certainly, that relying on one person was impossible, since they wouldn't be able to resist her supernaturally unfathomable sword movements. They could only pretend not to have heard those demeaning comments made by Ma Guangzuo. They were thinking: "What a stupid fool! We’re all handling the same affair here, and yet you help an outsider? When we're done I'll teach you a lesson." While their minds were  filled  with  these thoughts, before their eyes, the flash of the sword shone. Xiao Longnu had already made a move. The three fighters still couldn't follow the paths of her swords, so they leapt backwards together. They moved away a few zhangs, not wanting to get caught up with each other, all the while brandishing their weapons and protecting their body's vital parts.

Numerous Mongolian warriors led Yin Zhiping, Li Zhichang, Wang Zhitan and others near the temple wall. They all knew that the battle between the four was not to be taken lightly, all that was needed was for one person's weapon to be close to you; if you didn't die then you'd definitely sustain a serious injury.

Xiaoxiang Zi, Nimoxing and Yin Kexi all expected her to attack the other person first, so long as they're able to spot clues in her moves, then they will have chance of victory. The three fighters had the same intentions, consequently everyone of them executed unique skills, protecting their bodies without revealing vulnerable gaps, seeking a no win situation, in order to win. The three fighters, while attacking, adopted a defensive position together, this was a rare occasion in itself. But since their adversary is this strong, if they rush ahead and make an assault, the search for glory most likely would backfire on them.

Within the temple, Xiao Longnu's twin swords faced the floor, and she stood in the centre, while Xiaoxiang Zi and the other two placed themselves in an individual spot. Each one  of  them  had  a  cold  light shimmering about in front of them. Yin Kexi's Golden Whip flourished into  a  round  yellow  light; Nimoxing's Steel Snake illuminated strips of dark reflections; Xiaoxiang  Zi's  cane  stirred  into  a  grey screen, all blocking in front of them.

Xiao Longnu observed the three fighters one by one, thinking: "I have no enmity towards the three of you, and not enough time to fight with you?" Noticing that Zhao Zhijing was dodging and sneaking away and just when he was about to step behind a statue, she brushed her white sleeves, and moved in. Nimoxing and Xiaoxiang Zi separately dashed to the left and right, the steel snake and cane rushed in front of her, they had allied themselves. Their attack may not have been enough, but protecting themselves was their priority. Seeing that there were no loopholes to exploit, Xiao Longnu's twin swords did not immediately move outward. She saw that Zhao Zhijing was trying to escape through the back; she held her swords and darted forward two steps; however Nimoxing's and Xiaoxiang Zi's weapons whizzed like the wind blowing and she was unable to get past them. Xiao Longnu said: "Will you not let me pass?"

Xiaoxiang Zi thought: "A feud has not started between us yet, she might not massacre any of us. What would I benefit from this Quanzhen ringleader; why should I bother to make enemies with this strong girl?" He hesitated but did not answer.

Nimoxing replied: "We insist on not letting you past, what can a demon girl like you do about it? Why don't you try and get pass us?"

Xiaoxiang Zi and Yin Kexi both stared down at him and both thought: "We're stuck with not letting her past, but why must there be abusive remarks? Can it be that you alone can match her skills? You truly overrate yourself." But since they're uniting their efforts to ward off the enemy, it was not convenient to complain about each other.

They did not realize both legs of Nimoxing were removed because of Yang Guo's and Li Mochou's co- operation. He knew Yang Guo was Xiao Longnu's sweetheart, so his anger must be released on her; at that point he made a move, the move was very different from the other two’s, his intentions were to fight desperately to see who dies and who lives.

Xiao Longnu showed no anger at all, only knowing that in order to kill the two Taoists Yin and Zhao she must drive away the three experts in front of  her. She  coolly responded:  "Since  you're  not going to let me get past, then forgive me!" Right after she finished her words, without warning her swords’ light flashed by and a single noise was heard; and it spread itself into the distance without pausing. The noise hadn't yet subsided, but Xiao Longnu had already retreated back over ten feet returning to  the  centre  of  the temple. Xiaoxiang Zi's and Nimoxing's faces revealed no colour. The  prolonged  noise  was  formed  by around forty continuous attacks in a greatly constricted amount of time.  Within  that  moment,  Xiao Longnu's two swords slashed out, cut, skimmed and chopped, and made forty moves. Nimoxing and Xiaoxiang Zi were defending as tight as could be imagined, every one of her moves collided with the top of their weapons. To the bystander's ears, all that was heard were the recurring  noises  of  the  clashing weaponry and nothing was seen at all.

Her attacks were so fast that Xiaoxiang Zi and the others were even more panicked. When they were able to impede her sword slashes, they were totally dependant on their method of flourishing their weapons in such a way that nothing was going to get past them. They left barely a loophole to be seen. If they waited for her swords to extend completely, then both of them would have tasted the sharp blades. Xiao Longnu had admired their individual ways of defending closely and her swift range of assaults was to no avail. She paused for a slight moment, and drifted backward, but her eyes were still locked onto Xiaoxiang Zi. Then her two swords suddenly reversed their slashes and twelve rapid sounds of ding, ding, ding came so fast that even a skilled player of the lute’s complex way of playing wouldn't have that kind of speed. Yin Kexi's golden whip never rested and was busy blocking those twelve attacks right from the start.

After two periods of attacking and defending were finished, the four of them understood each other. Xiao Longnu was unfortunate not to have stronger inner energy and therefore her sword moves lacked the potency that's needed to disarm her opponents. Had she roughly similar inner energy to either of the three, their defense would've been breached long before. Xiao Longnu backtracked to the centre of the temple, and tried to conceive a plan to break past the enemy. She saw that the more they brandished their weapons the faster they became; where can she find the least bit of a weak point?

She thought: "Wielding weapons at this sort of tempo will lead to an excessive exhaustion of inner energy, surely then I won't last for long. I need to be patient and wait for a change; as the time drags on I will then be able to find a flaw. Even if Zhao Zhijing manages to escape, no matter where he goes I'll find him in the end." Thereupon her two swords trembled slightly, appearing as though she's going to attack or maybe not going to attack. She was storing up valuable energy ready to be unleashed. But she won't make the move yet and thus not leave her three opponents any small moments of relaxation. However, although Xiaoxiang Zi and his partner's inner energy was deep and profound, wielding weapons in such a way will make their physical energy drop below normal levels in a short time period. As Xiao Longnu saw no loophole to exploit, she quietly stood there with an elegant expression on her face, her mood severe. With her temperament, she had generally never been anxious before. Throughout her journey of following Yin Zhiping and Zhao Zhijing for months she'd never even laid a hand on them. Now, if she had to wait for another day, why not? For 20 years she'd been quietly keeping watch over the Ancient Tomb and learned a unique and unrivalled way of maintaining her patience.

Nimoxing noticed that she held her swords in a state of idleness, as self-assured as he was; he would not tolerate this any longer. Without warning he roared out like a lion, and wielded his metal snake and drove swiftly towards her. Once he was on the offence, the left side of his body revealed a weak point. Xiao Longnu's sword trembled, Nimoxing's crutch violently rammed out and then he jumped back. He felt a slight pain in his shoulder; glancing down he was surprised to see the cloth on his left shoulder had a tiny hole pierced through it, and blood seeping out of it. If Xiao Longnu hadn't also been concentrating on defending against his metal snake, his left arm would've been detached from his body.

Nimoxing racing to the attack had no merit in it and instead he received a wound. He may be angry but now did not have the nerve to hastily advance again. The three men deployed to three separate positions and brandished their weapons. Xiao Longnu, standing in the middle, did not pay any attention to them. Yin Kexi's single “10,000 Yellow Sand Whip Technique” repeated four times, and then something abruptly popped up in his mind. He called: "Brother Nimo, Brother Xiaoxiang let's take half a step forward." Nimoxing and Xiaoxiang Zi weren't too sure of his intentions, but since he's the Western Region's greatest asset, with extensive knowledge and intelligence, they complied with his words and did move half a step. Yin Kexi at the same time stepped forward half a pace, and commanded: "Defending must be well-knit, it's crucial for the steps to be slow. Let's take another step." Nimoxing and Xiaoxiang Zi proceeded forward as requested.

The three weren't at all slack or sluggish in any way. After a while, they stepped out half a foot. At that point everyone could make out what was happening; the circle of the three people surrounding Xiao Longnu was gradually shrinking, in the end they would force her into the centre. Although the three of them weren't confident about launching an assault, all of them continued to wield their weapons. They almost composed three impregnable fortresses progressively approaching the centre. The threatening defensive styles merged into a single mighty blitz, in which in its ferocity was incomparable. Everyone viewing this situation, especially the likes of the Mongolian soldiers, along with Zhao Zhijing and his fellow Taoists were secretly delighted. The other Taoists on the other hand were concerned for Xiao Longnu.

Xiao Longnu noticed them getting even closer and their weapons’ movements still had no openings to exploit. Within a few moments, if she made an attack, their continued pressure forward would definitely crush her. So she attacked at once, her two swords in succession thrust out, with the sounds 'ding-ding' that were suddenly fast then suddenly slow. Every move met with the top of their weapons. She flashed out many sword thrusts persistently with every one of them blocked and returning back on her. The three of them moved up half a step once again. Xiao Longnu gradually felt alarmed and bewildered, as she backed away to the left side she tripped, and slightly staggered. Her sword techniques showed a great deal of weakness, if Xiaoxiang Zi and his crew had not been thinking of defending only, and had been confident enough to seize an opportunity, she would've been caught in an extremely deadly position.

The temple's floor was actually littered with many swords. The weapons belonged to the Quanzhen disciples and were abandoned on the floor after they were deprived from them earlier. A moment ago, Xiao Longnu's left foot trod on one of the sword handles that lay nearby, as a result her balance wasn't steady. Suddenly she recalled: "Others are competent enough to use two swords with two hands; since I've mastered the art of splitting the heart for two uses, then two hands ought to wield four swords concurrently. I suppose it's improbable to attain a true degree of power using four swords, but perhaps it can be relied upon to confuse the enemy, and I can get a chance to escape." Almost immediately, her left hand that carried a single sword was swapped over to her right hand, she then stooped over and picked up two more swords. Both hands contained two swords now, and she began to wield her four swords at the same time.

Xiaoxiang Zi and others watched in disbelief and all thought: "This young girl's moves get stranger all the time. This truly is the first time I've ever seen someone use four swords together." But the three of them agreed on a plan to meet this contingency and settle with it. They weren't at all bothered about what sort of weird move or strange art she's going to use, they still thought only of defending and not attacking. They continued on pressing forward step by step.

Although Xiao Longnu's four swords used together was frightening when heard and observed, the power used with two swords is superior to using four swords. Normally she focused on a single sword during her training. The coordination of the Quanzhen Sword Technique and Jade Maiden Sword Technique in her right hand was flawless. Now the transition to using two swords with each hand was hardly effective, the movement's high level of proficiency was diminished. After several strokes, Xiaoxiang Zi and others realized her moves were somewhat slow. Each time she pushed out the swords, they had lost the immeasurable essence from before. Nimoxing’s larynx created 'coo-coo' noises, and he waved his steel snake to signal his lunge forward. Yin Kexi urgently cried out: "What you're trying to do is useless, that's more like a plan for luring the foe." The warning jolted him and he thought “It’s fortunate somebody else noticed really fast”. Knowing how crafty the young girl was, once he attacked she would immediately respond with a counterattack. Not only will their besieging formation break down instantly, his life is very likely to be taken away.

In reality Xiao Longnu was not luring her enemy on purpose, however Yin Kexi's information did make her think: "That dark short guy cannot keep himself calm, I must come up with a plan against him. He insists that I'm luring them into a trap; then I'll show him what luring is all about." Abruptly she raised her right hand and cast one sword vertically, she then followed up with a thrust using her right hand's sword, and her left hand cast a sword into the air. Xiaoxiang Zi and the rest were surprised, and unsure of what tricks she's playing, only seeing the two swords in midair had not yet descended. The other two swords that she carried were also tossed up into ceiling. This left her empty handed. Yin Kexi called out: "We must strictly defend with absolutely no intention to attack." He wasn't perceptive of Xiao Longnu's intentions, but he believed that providing they defend tightly and progressively press forward, then they'll surely have a chance of success. Their opponent may be barehanded, but they're not taking any chances to come out and attack.

Xiao Longnu bent over, without any hesitation both hands grabbed swords from the floor, and threw them one after another into midair. At the same time, they sunk down one by one. As she got a hold of them again, she threw them back up. Seeing those dozens of swords rise and fall, their cold lights glistening non-stop in the hall, it was very spectacular to watch. The Ancient Tomb Sect's martial arts foundation doesn't specialize in deep and profound inner energy, but rather relied on swift and rapid techniques to be victorious. That year when Xiao Longnu passed on martial arts to Yang Guo, he was required to block the escape of eighty sparrows with just his pair of hands. When this “Tight Encirclement Force” (Tian Luo Di Wang Shi) is used, then live sparrows could be impeded. Therefore the many swords flung and caught would be the same thing to her. Almost every split second there was a weapon in her hands. Catching sight of Xiaoxiang Zi and his comrades stupefied looks, their minds were ruminating; is this young lady performing some sort of magic trick or circus juggling?

Without warning Xiao Longnu's left palm rose out and pushed up the handle of an idle sword. The sword traveled horizontally towards Yin Kexi at a fast pace. The tip of the sword ran into his golden dragon whip's glossy cover, and then it swiftly at unbelievable velocity deflected back but this time sprang towards Nimoxing. Nimoxing's metal snake was wielded with a sense of urgency, and repelled the sword back to hit Xiao Longnu. Right at this point, overhead there were two swords raining down, Xiao Longnu's two hands diverted the three swords and allocated them towards each of the three people.

In a flash, the clusters of swords weren't moving through the air, but rather hovering and fiercely swaying about amongst the three’s weapons. The  sword  sent  towards  Nimoxing  tilted  and  was  vigorously shattered into two halves thanks to Nimoxing's metal snake. Xiao Longnu wore golden-threaded gloves and hit the tip of a sword, without a single wound being inflicted upon her. From her youth until now, she was very adept at the “Tight Encirclement Force” (Tian Luo Di Wang Shi); now, here in the hall, her advancing, retreating and avoiding skills were peerless under the heavens. Her eyes were sensitive and her moves fast, her spirit was crystal clear and the more she  fought  the  faster  she  became.  Her  mind wasn't phased by any distractions, and didn't even think of whether she would win or lose in this fierce battle; or for that matter, who lives and who dies. At times smoothly seizing a sword and lunging out several moves, then quickly retreating back from the enemy. Previously with two swords, Xiaoxiang Zi and the others found it difficult to withstand her moves; now  with  so  many  swords  arbitrarily  tossed  and thrust out they were more confused. With her as the nucleus, the swords were flying out swiftly in all directions, how can it be possible for them to parry those attacks? Besides when the swords were knocked away by their weapons, they weren't in control as to where they headed  or  how  powerful  they  were. Whether or not they would have to injure their companions, only heaven knew. The act of  Xiao Longnu throwing swords in the  air was formerly used to confuse  the  enemy's eyes. But as the trend of events fluctuated, it exceeded her own expectations and conveniently became beneficial to her. In the midst of the weapons waving in the air, indistinctly could be heard of Yin Kexi's and Nimoxing's heavy breathing. Xiaoxiang Zi's cane, although wielded at a fast rate, seemed uneasy and weighed against his name "Xiao Xiang (Unrestrained)" and opposed its nature.

Suddenly Yin Kexi's right arm drooped downward and he cried out: "Crap!" As soon as three swords flew out, of all the places they could end up they eventually tangled up with his whip. His defense may have been tight but every one of these swords had been blocked by Xiaoxiang Zi's and Nimoxing's weapons. Three of them happened to arrive together and inexplicably ended up tangled in his whip. Yin Kexi used force and shook his whip to shed the three swords. But just as he was about to lift his whip, Xiao Longnu's sword flashed out and left Yin Kexi's wrist in severe pain, and he could not hold the whip any longer.

With the sound of 'chong-long', the golden dragon whip fell on the floor. Xiao Longnu's left palm struck out successively; seven or eight swords flew violently outwards and dispersed towards the three men. She moved both hands, catching a pair of swords; her body steadied and moved further out beyond Yin Kexi's reach. After Yin Kexi sustained the injury to his wrist, it left him deprived of a weapon. As a result his impregnable fortress like ring was eradicated in an instant. Once his eyes caught a glimpse of her lightning quick twin swords, he hastily retreated out of the way. Xiao Longnu's lightness neigong was superior to any one of the three, raising her Qi, she directly surged to the back of the temple in pursuit of Zhao Zhijing.

Xiaoxiang Zi and the others weren't able to gather their weapons for a short while and had to wait until the many swords from above fell to the floor; until then they were unable to cease their defensive activity. Yin Kexi had a look of shame on his face and said: "Xiao Di's incompetence has lead to her escape!" They were supposed to work as business partners and without any sentiment but none there admired or respected the other. As they fought, each was thinking of ways to force the others to be convinced of their own qualities. But after experiencing such a soul-stirring ferocious battle, all three felt more like running away for their lives. In turn their hostility towards each other had been reduced substantially. Xiaoxiang Zi and Nimoxing both said: "We haven’t blamed you Brother Yin…" Before they even finished their sentence, they suddenly heard the 'ding-dong' sounds of weapons clashing, faintly transmitted from the rear of the mountain.

Hearing the battle from the temple, Xiaoxiang Zi and others were terrified, but amongst the  weapons crashing against each other outside was mixed the sound  of  Fawang's  five  wheels  'moaning'/whistling noise. Evidently Xiao Longnu and Fawang have started the action. All three of them thought: "With such a tough fighter available to act as the commanding general; if we fight by his side, we'll surely win." Yin Kexi retrieved his golden dragon whip, and bellowed: "After her comrades!" So they raced ahead to locate the racket. Xiaoxiang Zi raised his staff, and led a bunch of Mongolian soldiers to follow through. At this point everyone's archenemy was Xiao Longnu. They've never had any Quanzhen Taoists thoughts in their minds.

Yin Zhiping, Li Zhichang and others used this chance to untie each other's ropes right after the Mongolian soldiers left. One after another they collected their swords and followed outside.

Xiaoxiang Zi and others arrived near the rear of Chongyang Palace where Cave of the  Jade  Void  was situated. They could only see the wheels whirling in action and the sword qi in horizontal and vertical motion. Jinlun Fawang's roar rumbled like the thunder. Xiao Longnu's clothes were white as snow. The two were separated at around 10 feet, enabling them to engage in a long distance battle. All five elements of metal: gold, silver, copper, iron and lead were melded into large wheels, were  twirling  in  flight.  The vibration created a humming disturbance in everyone's ears. Fawang's previous wheels were  lost  in  a number of fierce battles and not recovered. After losing them he tried to supplement with replacements. The size and weight were more or less equivalents of his earlier ones, but unfortunately  the  melded decorative patterns were missing. All there was were his mantra. In the process of utilizing them, his proficiency was very high.

Yin Zhiping and Li Zhichang both saw the Cave of the Jade Void entrance blocked by a large rock. They weren't sure of their teacher's life and death situation. With deep anxiety, they hastened towards the cave entrance. With Da’erba's metal pestle and Huo Du's wielding of his steel fan, the groups of Taoists were repulsed in only several moves.

Wang Zhitan cried out: "Master…master, are you safe and sound in there?” Because of his apprehensive state, his voice carried a whimpering tone. Li Zhichang carefully thought: "On the basis of the five teachers’ profound cultivation, how could they let people fight like this outside the cave without doing anything? Their practice must have reached a critical stage and cannot afford to divert their attention and come out to deal with the foreign enemy. But with that call from Junior Wang, if they did happen to hear it, it will have thrown their minds into disorder." He hurriedly spoke out: "Junior Wang, do not call out anymore. The five teachers cannot be subjected to any form of disturbance." Wang Zhitan immediately realized his error, and helped a fallen Song Defang. He noticed his injuries weren't light and tried to think of a way to help him out. Xiaoxiang Zi and others were onlookers to the battle between Fawang and Xiao Longnu. They understood that although he was defending more than he was attacking, he still managed to return one move. The five wheels powers were strangely fierce and did not allow Xiao Longnu to get an inch closer to him. This defensive style was way more efficient than that of the other three fighters. The three showed admiration topped with envy, all thought: "That monk being conferred as the Mongolian's No. 1 Guoshi (Protector) was no slander at all." The three fighters had thought of helping out Fawang as a team, but in this sort of situation, their selfishness got the better of them. They did not wish to aid him to a victory.

But little did they realize that although Jinlun Fawang's moves were fierce, in his heart he was actually complaining about his hardship repeatedly. Each of Xiao Longnu's sword thrusts were differentiated from each other but still coordinated into an ingenious and unsurpassed way of fighting. Her left sword aimed at his front while her right sword was selecting a surprise attack from the back at the same time. It was a message to him that he had neither a way to retreat nor a way for him to advance. Every path that she chose struck at several places with both her swords, warning him to pay attention to mistakes, as her moves are difficult to defend against. Had he not reached the stage in his life where his internal force and external force were at their peaks, his eyes sensitive and his moves fast, and with his many variations of hard and soft, his body would've been hit by seventeen or eighteen sword strokes by now. All that was needed was a minor dip in his martial arts for that to happen. Actually, Xiao Longnu as one person delivering two types of sword techniques pales in comparison to her alliance with Yang Guo in terms of power, even though her moves were rapid. Not to mention that her real martial arts were a long way behind Fawang's. Even Xiaoxiang Zi and others were stronger than her. But then again, once she stepped forward, her moves were as fast as a bolt of lightning. No one had ever seen anything like it. This allowed her fears to escape from inside of her. Fawang suffered from the “Pure Heart of the Jade Maiden Swordplay” the moment it appeared again in front of his eyes; all he thought about was how to protect himself and how to slip away free from injury. Xiao Longnu gained the upper hand because of the way she beat him to the punch.

By the time they reached fifty or sixty moves, Fawang looked to be at risk, he withdrew his golden wheel to shield himself and wasn't confident enough to launch it again. After several more moves, this time the silver wheel was withdrawn to tighten his defense further. By the time, all five wheels were back with him, his fighting style was all-defensive just like Xiaoxiang Zi and others fought her before. The five wheels weight, size, colour and shape were all different from each other. Either it was sharp or more curved; they organized into five rings of light, which rolled all over the place around him.

Then suddenly one heard Xiao Longnu's delicate shout: "Let's do it!" This was followed by Fawang's low voiced roar, echoing repeatedly. They both leaped vertically, and their moves were picking up pace. Xiaoxiang Zi and others did not hear their shouts clearly, not knowing an adjustment had already taken place. If Jinlun Fawang used his wheel's fierce power to attack her head on, Xiao Longnu would struggle to withstand them. However since he was timid, he didn't show the best of his qualities. Comparing his speed to Xiao Longnu, he's bound to be in a disadvantageous position.

Then suddenly, Nimoxing felt something on his face, as if a miniature hidden weapon had struck him. In a moment of shock he stroked the area of contact, but found no wound on his face; instead there was blood on his palm. His mind was dumbfounded for a while, but then he spotted a drop of blood flying towards Yin Kexi. Now he was well aware that one person was injured in the fierce battle. In a short while, Xiao Longnu's white garment was stained with over ten scattered splashes of blood. It was as if there were a few peach blossoms on a white silk fabric, which dazzled the eyes through its gay coloring. Nimoxing cheerfully spoke: "The demon girl has been injured!" Immediately after  two  flashes  of  the  sword's reflection, Fawang quietly moaned. Xiaoxiang Zi coldly butted in: "No, it's the monk who got hurt!"

Xiaoxiang Zi’s initial judgment was right, the blood from Fawang’s injury sprayed over Xiao Longnu. He believed if Fawang was killed by her hands, then there's no way they can stop her. For that reason he called out: "Brother Yin, Brother Xiao, let's attack her together!" He wielded his metal snake and slowly pressed in behind Xiao Longnu. Xiaoxiang Zi and Yin Kexi also felt that they could not look on unconcerned, so they immediately split themselves left and right and approached them.

Fawang has been hit three times by her sword, but all were light injuries. But just when he's in grave danger, backup arrived. He felt a sense of relief, and saw Xiaoxiang Zi and the other two weren't at all opening up any sort of attack. They were rather using their weapons to protect themselves as they moved their positions to three sides steadily closing in on her. They knew that if the conflict is slightly prolonged, Xiao Longnu's hourglass will run out.

In front of the Cave of the Jade Void, the pine lined paths showcased a fierce battle between four Wulin stranger guests gathering round a silk clothed young girl. The group of Mongolian soldiers and Quanzhen Taoists were motionless with fear, their faces resembled dying embers. They've never encountered such a violent struggle before in their lives!

The ear-deafening bumping sound of 'peng' shook the earth. Gravel was tossed out and the air was full of mist and dust. The dozen big stone blocks collapsed to one side in front of Cave of the Jade Void. Five Taoists that were inside slowly stepped out, they were the five Quanzhen Masters Qiu Chuji, Liu Chuxuan and the rest.

Yin Zhiping, Li Zhichang and others were very happy and called out: “Master!" and rushed forward. Da’erba and Huo Du were shocked when they saw the explosive power that blew the entrance of the cave open; like it was blasted open with gunpowder. The two grabbed their weapons and rushed forward. Qiu Chuji and the other five masters moved aside a bit and then all of them raised their ten palms and pressed at the backs of those two. A firm press was delivered and the two were thrown four meters away.

Da’erba and Huo Du's martial arts were of the same level as Hao Datong, though they were not as powerful as Qiu Chuji or Wang Chuyi. But they could not be defeated within one stance by them either.

The Five Masters were in retreat contemplating in the YuXu Cave [Cave of the Jade Void] to create a way to counter the “Jade Maiden Sword” technique; they were pondering intensively day and night. They felt that the martial arts displayed by Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were the bane of the Quanzhen martial arts. It is impossible to surpass them with known stances; it was Qiu Chuji, who came up with an idea when he thought of the “Big Dipper Formation”. He said, “We cannot overcome them with stances and varieties, but if we combine our internal strength we can use power to make for variety."

Hence, the five intensively thought of a way to merge their internal energies to overcome an enemy; every stance would be generated by the merged power of the five of them. They know that there are no exceptional talents within the third and fourth generation; the only way to survive is to unite the large number of disciples. Within two months time, they finally created “The Seven Star Assembly”. This technique was derived from the “Big Dipper Formation”, although it is called “The Seven Star Assembly”, it does not necessarily need seven persons to unite their internal strengths. Six, five, four or even three can perform this technique. When the Imperial Priest led the other warriors to seal the cave, the five masters were reaching the critical point of “The Seven Star Assembly” and could not be distracted. Even though they knew large numbers of foes have attacked, they had to ignore this for the time being. When they finally managed to merge their five internal energies perfectly, they blasted open the sealed cave. However, because of the urgent situation, this technique had only reached thirty or forty percent of its' level of attainment. Even so, Da’erba and Huo Du were unable to cope with it and the Five Masters were triumphant with one strike.

Qiu Chuji and others now turned around and were observing the battle between Xiao Longnu, the Imperial Priest and others. After observing for a few moments, they looked at each other and looked very sad and depressed. They thought: "In vain.....everything was in vain. We never thought that the martial arts of the Ancient Tomb School would be this magnificent. We can never defeat her in this lifetime."

The martial arts previously displayed by Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were the  blueprints  for  their ponderings and contemplation. But the incredible, fantastic swordplay of Xiao Longnu was too awesome. They could not even see what those stances were, so how could they think of a way to counter it?

The Imperial Priest and the other Mongolian warriors had higher martial arts than the Five Masters of Quanzhen. It was practically impossible for the Quanzhen School to even produce someone like them now.

Qiu Chuji and others thought: “If our late Master were still alive he would surely be superior to them; our Martial Uncle Zhou is probably also one level higher than these four men in the field of martial arts. Yet, when facing the combined forces of these four fighters, chances are high that even he will suffer defeat."

The Five Masters were ashamed and depressed; they felt that Quanzhen was degrading with each generation. They could not carry on the legacy of their patriarch anymore. When faced with a great enemy it seems that the Quanzhen School has no leg to stand on anymore.

What they saw was that every move was brutal, every step made was critical. The more they watched the more worried they became and they weren't eager to inquire of their disciples the reasons for this unforeseen event taking place in front of them.

As the five people, Xiao Longnu and others, battled on, the circumstances were contrasting again. Every move Xiao Longnu made was an attack, whereas Fawang and others were still engaging in obstructing her every move. Counterattacks were few, but they were gradually closing in on her. Xiao Longnu's situation became even more disadvantageous. Several times when she tried to evacuate the circle in order to slip away temporarily, her opponents’ strict and concentrated defense was preventing it. Every move made brought her back well within the circle. She knew that with Jinlun Fawang as the driving force, it was useless to even try throwing her swords up in the air like before. Besides the two swords that she held, there weren't any other weapons available to her.

By herself in the main hall she injured Lu Qingdu, but by this point she had fought for close to two hours. Her physical strength was hanging on a thread, and the powerful enemies getting closer to her. Qiu Chuji and the others were lying in wait for her to one side. These five old Taoists were still very rare gems to find in the martial art world. Every corner was populated with enemies galore and she was only one person; she will definitely lose her life here at Chongyang Palace. Suddenly she remembered: “With me being brought to this predicament, what's the pity if I simply die here? But…but…at the brink of death, I dearly hope I can meet Guo’er at the same time. Where is he at this moment? He's bound to be getting intimate with Miss Guo, perhaps even already married to her. As a newly wed, why would he even think of a hopeless girl like me besieged from all sides? No it can't be, it can't be! Guo’er wouldn't be like that, even if he married Miss Guo, in no way would he forget about me. All I yearn for is to see him once again

…"

When she left Xiangyang and headed for the north,  she'd made  up  her mind that she'll  never meet Yang Guo ever again. But at this stage where she faced the final moments of life and death, she found it more and more difficult to stick to her vow. What was previously “Dividing Heart with Two Uses” is suddenly now “Heart Embraces Her Special One”. Even though both her sword strike's activity was the same as before, her “Pure Heart of the Jade Maiden Manual” strength wasn't there. Fawang noticed a change in her sword style; he initially believed she intentionally showed weakness to tempt them. But after several moves passed, it didn't seem so. So he immediately stepped further forward, his left hand's silver wheel guarded himself, whereas his right hand's golden wheel aimed for one of her swords to smash into.

Only hearing the sound of 'dong', Xiao Longnu's left hand's sword flew out of her hand and landed with a 'pak', it broke into two pieces. Fawang was just probing and it actually worked. This was far better than what he expected so without wasting any chances his right hand's golden wheel rammed out. This stunned Xiao Longnu and she quickly made an effort to suppress her perturbed mind. She brushed out three slashes. But since she was forced into using just a single sword, the martial arts difference between her and Fawang stretched further. Xiaoxiang Zi and his partners seeing the small advantages arising progressed forward with their own weapons.

Xiao Longnu revealing a grimacing smile and did not wish to continue the contest any longer. She caught a glimpse in the pine lined path a blooming rosebush nearby within thirty feet of her. The flowers were delicate and fragrant and seemed like they were about to fall. Suddenly she was reminded of the place where she was cut off by the rosebushes with Yang Guo while learning “Pure Heart of the Jade Maiden Manual”. She thought: "Since I'll never see Guo’er again, then I'll think of him before I die.” Her facial expression was gentle and soft as it is was absorbed into a moment of contentment.

Fawang and his teammates had surrounded her in all four directions; if they wanted to they could've finished her in one stroke. But suddenly they noticed a wave of abnormality highlighted on her face, appearing as though she had forgotten about defending herself from the enemy. All were astonished, and wondered whether she was up to those dirty old sorcery tricks again. Four different weapons wavered in mid-air but didn't come down. But within that pause, Nimoxing's steel snake was the first to move forward.

Then all of a sudden beside him was the sound of wind soughing; it appeared that someone had stretched out a sword to strike him. Nimoxing frantically got back his steel snake  to  obstruct the  sword but  hit nothing but empty air. Then he saw a person in motion, it was none other than Yin Zhiping who scrambled in front of Xiao Longnu. He was delivering his own sword to her. Xiao Longnu at this  point  seemed possessed as though nothing is within her sight, nor can she  hear  with  her  ear,  and  had  already abandoned the matter of engaging in a hand-to-hand combat. Then she felt her left hand had been given a sword, and smoothly clung onto it.

The onlookers couldn't help but cry out in alarm after suddenly catching sight of Yin Zhiping entering the danger zone of the five top-notch fighters. For him, it was no different than if he were digging his own grave.

Fawang was acquainted with him, and did not wish to harm his life. So thereupon his left arm met his shoulder by force and pushed him away. His right hand's wheel swayed towards Xiao Longnu. Yin Zhiping was curious as to why she had no intentions to fight anymore. Desperately trying to think, his  eyes understood that she'd be dead if this wheel grazed her. Without caring for his own safety he flung himself forward, and screamed: "Xiao Longnu, watch out!" Then used the back of his own body and obstinately blocked against Fawang's golden wheel.

Whenever Fawang's golden wheel swings out, its remarkable power alone could split rocks and slice mountains, what chance does Yin Zhiping have of withstanding that? So he immediately dove out of the way. After Xiao Longnu caught the sword given her by Yin Zhiping, she was as immovable as before and she continued to firmly hold the sword erect whilst in a trance. Yin Zhiping flew out, and arrived on the sword's end, spearing through his chest. When Xiao Longnu came to her senses, a dawning realization swept across her mind and she was certain that he saved her life. Staring down at his back wounded by the wheel and his chest pierced by his own sword, and she knew both were mortal wounds. In a split second her all consuming hatred converted to compassion, and softly spoke: "Why did you do this?"

Yin Zhiping's life was near its last gasp; as soon as he heard the four words of 'Why did you do this?' couldn't hold back his wild joy. And said: "Long Guniang, I'm deeply…deeply sorry for what I've done to you; I could never amend with my selfless actions. Will…will you forgive me?" Xiao Longnu stared blankly again, and recollected the time when she heard his conversation with Zhao Zhijing at the Guo's residence in Xiangyang. A thought just skimmed across her mind: "Guo’er had always been deeply affectionate with me, and even once swore that he would never be unfaithful to me. Then without notice he's made up his mind to marry Guo Guniang and abandoned me like nothing happened, and didn't give a seconds care about the after-effects. He must've learned that I was once raped by this filthy scoundrel." Her heart was innocent, even when she followed the tracks of the two Taoists Yin Zhiping and Zhao Zhijing; this notion never came up in her mind. Once she was abruptly reminded by Yin Zhiping, her mind's compassion immediately spiraled back into hatred. Her fury has in fact tenfold, clenching her teeth; her right hand's sword immediately drew on his chest and pushed forward. However in all her life she had never taken somebody's life. Although her bosom was filled with grief and indignation, the sword that was to be thrust through his chest never happened to everyone's surprise.

Qiu Chuji observing to one side saw his beloved pupil die a violent death. He was distressed as though a dagger struck through his heart; the incident happened faster than anyone could imagine, and he failed to reach him in time to rescue him. Xiao Longnu's first sword strike can be said to have been caused by Fawang. But the second sword strike was intentional. He didn't have the slightest knowledge of the tortuous details. During these six months he's been without rest, for the most part thinking of how to negate Xiao Longnu's maneuvers. In the recent month apart from this he had nothing else to think about. Xiao Longnu had been established as his own Quanzhen sect's archenemy, but he definitely could not believe Yin Zhiping was willing to sacrifice his life to save her. His eyes seeing her sword strike out again he immediately leapt in front. With his left hand's five fingers whisking her wrist and his right palm aimed squarely for her face. Qiu Chuji's martial arts occupied first place amongst the Quanzhen Seven Masters. The circumstances forced him to make that move, and his palm's might was very forceful.

That jerk did manage to pull Xiao Longnu's wrist, and the sword was instantly out of her grasp. Without waiting for the sword to drop on the ground, she reached out her hand and regained possession of it. Then she followed up with a lunge forward across to Qiu Chuji's chest. During this moment, Yin Zhiping shrieked in pain as he sank down on the ground with blood gushing out of his wounds. Xiao Longnu's left sword pointed towards Qiu Chuji's lower abdomen. Now that both her swords have combined harmoniously, its power has rapidly amplified. Qiu Chuji's martial arts maybe profound, but within three strokes, he was in a helter-skelter state. Wang Chuyi noticing the situation wasn't right, dashed forward to lend a hand, pushing Fawang and others to one side.

Jinlun Fawang and his motley crew felt surprised when they saw Xiao Longnu fight against the Quanzhen Five Masters, but knew that this change of events was beneficial for them. He thought it would be a good idea to watch them commit fratricide. All of them gave each other a wink, and backed off several paces. They were waiting for a real victor to emerge between Xiao Longnu and the Quanzhen Five masters, and then they'd step in to tidy up the final phase of the chess game.

As the top fighters come to blows, every move was mortal; nobody dared to risk any room for error. That's why even when Qiu Chuji and his peers were aware that the situation was odd they knew it would be hard to solve easily. But since the battle had commenced, where could they find the spare time to consider all of this? The Quanzhen Five masters were unarmed, when confronting Xiao Longnu's marvelous and improper methods of swordplay, the single month spent on initiating a skill called “Seven Star Rally” did not even have any chance of being put to good use. In a moment, Hao Datong and Liu Chuxuan both were harmed by her swords, but both persisted and guarded every martial brother’s safety. Then ‘zung’ sound, Sun Bu’Er was struck by a sword.

Other Quanzhen disciples seeing how the masters were failing in a dangerous situation couldn’t help but cry out in fear. Li Zhichang called out: "Quickly deliver them a weapon!" At this point, the “Five Master’s Palm” wind whizzed through the air, leaving the disciples unable to get near them. They could only throw the swords one by one over to them. Xiao Longnu raced ahead and brandished her sword to push away the incoming weapons. Every sword arriving near them was knocked away. The advantage Xiao Longnu had of having a sword longer than their human arms meant the Five Masters were given no chance to grab a weapon. Suddenly the noise of 'ding-dang' was heard, Xiao Longnu's left hand collected another sword thrown in the battle, and abruptly lobbed it backwards. Wang Chuyi couldn't prepare himself in time; the corner of his left eye was slashed by an outsider's sword. Out of the Five Quanzhen Descendants, four were injured; a conclusion as to who triumphed could be reached.

Jinlun Fawang laughed ecstatically, and called out: "My Taoist friends please step aside, let me take care of this Demon Girl!" Finishing those words he intervened. Xiaoxiang Zi, Nimoxing and Yin Kexi jointly attacked her as they wielded their weapons. It had escalated into a phase where nine experts are besieging a single Xiao Longnu.

As soon as Fawang got involved, Quanzhen Five Masters were instantly released from Xiao Longnu's twin swords coercion. Five of them called out loudly, and stood shoulder to shoulder. Either it's the right palm or the left palm, five streams of huge energies amalgamated into one that generated the “Seven Star Rally” attack. It maybe only “Five Star Rally” right now, but its’ power is out of the ordinary. She tilted her body to evade the attack; the noise of 'peng' was heard. The dust on the ground flew upwards, the attack left Nimoxing somersaulting in the air as he fell. After both his legs were cut off, he had to rely on his crutches for support; his lower-body wasn't stable enough to sustain the blow. At least when he was in imminent danger he managed to slip away from the direct force of the blow. He may have toppled over, but instantly got back up unscathed. With a few bawls of 'wa-wa', he raised his steel snake aimed down at Liu Chuxuan’s head. In front of the Cave of the Jade Void the sounds of calls reverberated in all directions adding to the confusion.

Xiao Longnu seeing Nimoxing turn on the Quanzhen Five Masters stroked her white sleeves, and wanted to pull out of the circle. Jinlun Fawang hurried over to hinder the attacks, and said: "Brother Nimo, it's more important to deal with the Demon Girl." Nimoxing who's preoccupied with the fight did not pay attention to the calls of Fawang. Prodding outward with his steel snake, the assaults were laid upon the various Quanzhen Taoists. Xiao Longnu's swords quickly thrust out at Fawang several times. Fawang felt the unbelievable speed from the oncoming force; giving him a hard time just to parry them, and had to withdraw a few steps.

Suddenly, Xiao Longnu gasped loudly, both cheeks lost color. With two sounds of 'qiang-long', both swords from her hands fell on the ground. Staring in blank amazement at the pine lined path's rosebush, she called: "Guo’er is that really you?"

At this juncture, Fawang's golden wheel had sliced her head-on; Quanzhen Five Master's “Seven Star Rally” pummeled her in the back. The attack was supposed to keep Nimoxing at bay, but the Indian short man had already suffered the bitter taste of the pile driver. So he had no second thoughts of matching it and evaded to the left. The attack was alternatively expended upon Xiao Longnu's garment.

She looked bewitched, and the reaction to evade wasn't there. Her vest had endured a palm, her chest struck by the wheel. Even with such a fragile body weathering these two tremendous converging forces, her eyes were nevertheless still fixed upon the external influence of the rosebush. At that moment, her heart was agitated and she turned her thoughts to her beloved, it seemed as though those two forces had not harmed her a bit.

The spectators felt in awe of her gaze, and all involuntarily turned their heads to see what was so strange about that rosebush. They noticed a human shadow fly out round the side of the pine lined field and sneak into the no-man's land between Fawang and the Quanzhen Five Masters. That  person,  darting  past everyone, grabbed hold of Xiao Longnu with his left arm and had already leaped out of the ring. Without wasting a moment, sat beside the rosebush, and rested her against his chest. This person was of course Yang Guo!

Xiao Longnu’s face lighted up, tears flowing from her eyes: "Guo’er, it's you. This isn't a dream?" Yang Guo nodded, kissing her cheek, his voice soft: "Not a dream. Am I not holding you right now?"

But then he saw her clothes stained with blood spots, alarmed. He worriedly asked: "Are you seriously injured?"

Xiao Longnu earlier received two vicious attacks. Upon seeing Yang Guo, she didn't feel her injury. Only now she felt the searing pain. She placed her arm around Yang Guo's neck, saying: "I… I…" Her body hurt so much she couldn't get the words out.

Yang Guo couldn't bear to see her in pain, his voice broke: "Gu Gu I've come too late!"

Xiao Longnu said: "No, it's good that you've come. In this life, I thought I wouldn't be able to see you again."

Suddenly she felt cold as if her soul was leaving the body. She hung on to Yang Guo's arms yet her hold was slowly dropping. She said: "Guo’er, hold me."

Yang Guo's left arm slightly tightened, pulling her to his chest. He was overwhelmed by hundreds of feelings, his tears slowly falling down to Xiao Longnu's face.

Xiao Longnu said: "Hold me, use both…both hands!" Suddenly she saw his right sleeve empty. Strange, she cried out: "Your right arm?"

Yang Guo forced a smile, his voice cracked: “I've worried you. Don't worry about me right now, close your eyes quickly, don't use up your energy.”

Xiao Longnu said: "No! Your right arm? How come it's gone…how come?" Even though her own life was hanging by thread, she didn't care the slightest about herself; she was determined to find out why Yang Guo was missing an arm. This was because in her heart, Yang Guo's well-being was 100 times, 1000 times more important than hers.

It had been like this since the time they were together at Gu Mu [the Ancient Tomb]. Only then she didn't know it was love, nor did Yang Guo. They only thought that their mutual concern for each other’s well- being was right between the master and the disciple. Since there were only two of them living at Gu Mu, if one didn't care for the other, who else would they care for? Actually this was a feeling between a young man and woman; before they even knew it, they were in love with each other. One day they learned that one could not regard the other's life as important as one's own, let alone 100 times, 1000 times more important without being in love. Every couple who was in love could think like this. However, only these two people with truly deep feelings and innate passions who found each other and fell in love could treasure the other party more than they did themselves.

As far as Xiao Longnu was concerned, Yang Guo's one arm was much more important than her own life or death and thus she persisted on asking. She stretched her hand and gently stroked his sleeve, not daring to touch it too hard. But really, there was no arm under the sleeve.

Suddenly, she no longer felt the severe pain in her body. This was because her mind was occupied by Yang Guo's pain, making her forget her own suffering. She softly said: "Poor Guo’er. Has it been very long? You aren't in pain now?"

Yang Guo shook his head, replying: "It doesn't hurt anymore. As long as I get to see your face and never part with you again, what's so important about missing an arm? My left arm can still hold you, can't it?"

Xiao Longnu let out a soft smile, deciding that Yang Guo was right. She lay down in his embrace. Even though he had only his left arm, she was content. She was facing death just before seeing him again. Right now it was very good, really very good.

Jinlun Fawang, Xiaoxiang Zi, Yin Kexi, Quanzhen Five Masters, their numerous disciples, the numerous Mongolian soldiers ... nobody made a sound but looked dumbfounded at the young lovers. At a time like this, they all were thinking about fighting with them, yet nobody dared to start it. The world waited. Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu no longer cared whether they lived or died.  Having  their  love,  what  was  so important about death?

Jinlun Fawang certainly was not afraid of the couple only astonished. He saw Xiao Longnu badly injured and Yang Guo having only one arm, and neither being able to withstand a fight again. However, the two people's affection for each other had an awe-inspiring and fearless effect, and was not something to be taken lightly.

Eventually, Xiao Longnu couldn't stay quiet, asking: "Your arm ... How did you lose your arm? Tell me quickly."

Yang Guo forced a bitter smile and said: "The arm was lost; naturally it got cut off by other people."

Xiao Longnu sadly looked at him. She hadn't thought that he wouldn't tell her who did it. That meant it didn't matter who. She again felt the rising pain in her chest. She knew her life wouldn't last much longer, lowering her voice: "Guo’er, I beg you one thing."

Yang Guo said: "Gu Gu, you've forgotten. At Gu Mu, I promised you, whatever you want me to do, I'll do it."

Xiao Longnu sighed quietly, saying: "That was a long, long time ago!" "To me, forever is the same," replied Yang Guo.

Xiao Longnu smiled sadly and said: "I don't have long to live. You stay with me, until I die. Don't go accompany Guo.. Guo Fu Guniang [Miss Guo Fu]."

Yang Guo was sad yet angry, saying: "Gu Gu, of course I'll be with you. What does Guo Fu Guniang have to do with me? It was she who chopped off this arm of mine."

Xiao Longnu was alarmed, crying out: "What? It was her? Why was she so heartless?"

Is that… Is that why you don't like her?" Yang Guo said resentfully: "The two of us are very good together, why are you being suspicious? Except for one person, in my life I've never loved any girls. This Guo Fu Guniang, Hngg [expression of contempt]"

o0o

That day Yang Guo and Guo Fu's quarrel escalated into a fight, Guo Fu's burning anger was hard to restrain. She grabbed hold of the ‘Lady’ sword and struck down at the top of his head. Yang Guo was poisoned and he hadn't fully recuperated yet, his four limbs had no energy to spare. Seeing the sword arrive, he was out of options and had to raise his right arm in front of his face. Guo Fu in furious vexation gave her all. The ‘Lady’ sword was as sharp as it gets and Yang Guo's right arm was silently cut off in a flash. With that sword chopping down, Yang Guo’s life changed. Yang Guo no doubt let out a fierce burst of anger; Guo Fu was quivering with fear and knew she’d made a huge mistake that could never be made up. But after witnessing the blood well up like a fountain, she hadn't a clue as to what to do. A moment passed, suddenly the sound of 'wa' was released, she covered her face and wept whilst pushing open the door and rushing out. After a short period of nervous discomfort, Yang Guo promptly relaxed himself. And extended his left hand to seal his right shoulder's “Loyal Shoulder Point”, he tore up a bed sheet and firmly tied up his shoulder to prevent the continuous flow of blood. Then he applied the Golden Wound Medicine to his wound, and thought: "I cannot stay here any longer, I must hurry and get out of the city." Slowly holding the wall he walked a few steps. Because he’d bled excessively, he almost fainted several times as his vision became more and more blurred.

At this moment, he heard the loud calls of Guo Jing: "Come on, come on, how is he? Has he stopped bleeding yet?" The sound of his speech was filled with anxiety. Yang Guo's mind at that time only encompassed these thoughts: "No way am I going to see Uncle Guo. I don't want to see him." So he took a deep breath, and sprinted out of the room.

He rushed outside the mansion's gates, pulled in a horse, mounted it and galloped to the city gate. The officers and men that supervised the city had seen him rescue Guo Jing at the top of the city wall once before, they had a great deal of respect for him. So they immediately opened the city gate for him and he dashed past on the horse.

During  this  period  the  Mongolian  armed  forces  had  decamped  a  hundred-odd  Chinese  miles  (li)  away. Yang Guo did not take the route of the main road. The horse was ridden through  the  desolated  areas.  He thought: "The time is up for the Passion  Flower  that's  infected  my  body,  but  I'm  still  very  much  alive. Perhaps it’s just like what the  Indian  Divine  Monk  said;  after  I  sucked  the  poison  of  the  “Soul  Freezing Silver Needles”, the  poison  managed  to  counteract  the  other  poison,  which  prolonged  my  life.  But  the poison has only subsided; sooner or later it's inevitable  for  it  to  break  out  again.  With  severe  wounds,  if  I were to head off to Mount Zhongnan to look for GuGu, I definitely won't last very long. Could this be what fate has destined for me, and condemned me to die in such a strange place? He began to reminisce about his wretched orphaned life, other than those fond memories he had of being together with Xiao Longnu in Ancient Tomb; he rarely found  any  other  specific  moments  of  bliss.  At  this  moment,  the  only  close  person he had has abandoned him and gone. Just when he's recovered – part of his body is disabled. Already half- dead, when his thoughts reached this point, he was hardly able to restrain his tears.

Yang Guo laid flat on the horse’s back. In his wooziness, he didn't care where the horse would take him, as long as Guo Jing wouldn't be able to find him and he didn't bump into any of the Mongolian army. Soon, the horse came near the desolate valley where the Wu brothers had fought each other the night before.

It was dusk already. The long grasses in the valley were even taller than knee-highs. Silence swept the night. Yang Guo was quite sure that he was all alone now, so he lay down in the bushes and tried to get some sleep. By then he couldn't care less about his own safety, and didn't even bother to guard against poisonous snakes or wild animals. But the excruciating pain from his wound never stopped throughout the night. He could barely fall asleep.

The next morning when he opened his eyes and sat up, something suddenly caught his attention. Only inches from him lay two dead centipedes, bloodstains in their mouths, stiff as sticks, with red and black stripes all over their bodies, looking frightful even after they were dead. In shock, Yang Guo examined them more closely and found a big pool of blood next to the centipedes. After a short ponder, he had it figured out. It turned out that the bleeding from his wound had created the pool of blood, and because of the strong toxin contained in his blood, the two poisonous centipedes had died.

A wry smile flashed across Yang Guo's lips as he murmured, "Who would have  imagined  that  even poisonous centipedes couldn't stand my toxic blood." Anger, indignation, sorrow and bitterness swelled in his heart. He could no longer control his surging emotions. Raising his head high, he burst  into  mad laughter.

Three chirps came from the top of a peak and caught Yang Guo's attention. He looked up. It was the Divine Eagle, its head held high, standing on the very top of the peak. Even though it looked ferocious and hideous, there was something about it that made it look majestic and awe-inspiring.

Yang Guo was overjoyed as if he had just seen an old friend. "Brother Eagle, we have met again!" he shouted.

A long chirp echoed as the Divine Eagle darted down from the peak. It couldn't fly because of the heavy body and the two short wings, but it could run like a stallion. Within moments, it had arrived by Yang Guo. Having noticed that one of Yang Guo's arms was missing the eagle fixed its stare at Yang Guo.

"Brother Eagle, great misfortune has fallen upon me. That's why I've come to you for shelter," Yang Guo explained with a wry smile. He couldn't tell whether the eagle understood him. It simply turned around and started walking. So he grabbed the reins of the horse and followed.

Only after several steps, the Divine Eagle suddenly turned its head  back  and  smacked  the  belly  of  the horse with its left wing. Taking a couple of steps back, the horse neighed in pain and bucked up and down.

"I see," Yang Guo nodded. "Once I enter Brother Eagle's valley, there will be no need to leave again. Why bother keeping the horse?" Deep in his heart, he was already convinced that the eagle was really no less intelligent than a human being, so he let go of the reins and followed the Divine Eagle in big strides. Because of his severe wounds, he had to sit down to rest every little while, and the Divine Eagle would then hold its steps and wait for him.

After close to two hours of walking and with many rest stops along the way, the two of them arrived at the cave where the Demonic Swordsman, Dugu Seeking-A-Loss, had been buried.

Seeing the grave made out of rocks and stones, Yang Guo heaved a long sigh. All sorts of feelings welled up in his mind. "If this legendary master was able to roam the Martial World with no equal, his Kung Fu skills must have been extraordinary," Yang Guo thought to himself. "But he must have also been very eccentric and arrogant because of his unmatched talents and didn't get along with ordinary people. That was probably why he just passed away so quietly in such a desolate valley while no great stories or legends of him were told in the Martial World. And no sword art manuals or apprentices of his were left behind to pass down his invincible martial arts techniques. His life must have been very exciting and admirable, yet at the same time sad and gloomy. Even though the Divine Eagle is very intelligent, it is so unfortunate that it doesn't speak, otherwise it could have told a little about the Senior Master's life story."

He stared at the grave blankly, lost in thought. When he finally got hold of himself, the Divine Eagle had brought back two wild rabbits from outside the cave. Yang Guo barbecued the rabbits and made a good meal out of them.

Days went by and the wounds started to heal gradually, and Yang Guo found himself on the path to recovery. Every time he thought of the Xiao Longnu, he would still feel pain from his chest, but it was far from the kind of unbearable pain he used to have. Yang Guo was the restless type. Having spent so many days in the desolate valley accompanied only by the Divine Eagle, he soon became very bored.

On this no particular day, the verdant hill at the back of the cave caught his attention. It was a beautiful day, so he decided to take on a random scenic walk. About half a mile into the walk, he found himself in front of a big cliff. The cliff towered straight into the sky almost like a huge screen. In the middle of the cliff, probably two hundred feet above the ground, a huge rock, about thirty or forty feet wide, stuck out from the cliff like a platform, and vaguely, he thought he could see words carved on the rock. Raising his head high, he stared up. Only after a long while was he able to tell what they were. Carved on the rock were two large characters: ‘Sword Tomb’.

"Why would a sword have a tomb? Could Senior Master Dugu have somehow broken his favorite sword and decided to bury it here?" Yang Guo's curiosity started growing.

He walked next to the bottom of the cliff and looked around. The cliff wall was made out of bald rock. There wasn't even any grass or bush on the rock wall. There were no rock edges for grabbing or stepping on, which made him wonder how the Senior Master had been able to climb up the cliff.

He stared at the rock wall for a good while, and the more he stared at it, the bigger the urge to climb up he felt.

"He was also just a human being," he thought aloud. "How did he climb up so high? He's got to have some kind of tricks. If he had been able to climb up there using pure martial arts skills, then his skills had to be god like."

He stared at the rock wall again even more carefully. After a while he noticed something. On the rock wall, there were dozens of patches of moss, each patch several feet away from the other, going upwards in a straight line. An idea popped out. He leapt up and reached for the  lowest patch  of  moss. Not to his surprise, a small hole emerged after he scrubbed out the dark soil. He figured that Dugu Seeking-A-Loss must have dug these holes with sharp blades. After so many years, dirt had accumulated in the holes and mosses had started to grow.

Having nothing else urgent to do, Yang Guo decided to check out this Sword Tomb. But having only one arm left certainly made climbing a more difficult task.

"If I can't climb up to the platform, then I can't. Who's going to laugh at me here?" he thought.

After tightening his waistband, he took a deep breath and leapt a few feet up, sticking his left foot in the first small hole. Then he leapt upward again, kicking his right foot toward the second patch of moss. The soft soil fell, and sure enough, there was another small hole on the rock wall just big enough for a foot. His first attempt at climbing the cliff only lasted a little bit over one hundred feet before he ran out of breath, so he slid back down to the ground.

"I've already found over twenty stepping spots. The second attempt should be much easier," he told himself.

After some meditation at the bottom of the cliff, he gathered enough strength and finally climbed up to the rock platform. Although he only had one arm left, his Qing-Gong skills hadn't weakened a single bit. He couldn't help but feel some relief.

Next to the two large characters "Sword Tomb," there were two rows of words carved on the rock in smaller size:

"The Demonic Swordsman Dugu Seeking-A-Loss has become the  invincible  and  unchallenged  warrior under Heaven; he therefore buried his swords here. Alas, the heroes of the realm have laid down their arms, now my long sword is sharp as usual yet useless...the agony!"

A mixed feeling of shock and admiration welled up in Yang Guo's heart. He couldn't help but feel that this Senior Master's personality was very similar to his own. Both of them were lofty and defied the entire world. But he himself was certainly far from invincible and unchallenged. And now he only had one arm; even if he could survive this time, the chance of him becoming invincible would be very slim. He stared at the two rows of words for a while and then looked down. Rocks and stones formed a big pile in the shape of a tomb, its back facing the deep and broad valley. Putting aside the fact of how brilliant the Demonic Swordsman was, the sword tomb itself was impressive enough on its own. It was apparent that this Senior Master must have been outstanding in both his wits and his martial arts skills, and had high aspirations. He wished that he could have been born many years earlier so he’d have a chance to meet such a legendary master in person. Feeling thrilled, he shouted out loudly by the sword tomb in a long roar, and moments later, echoes rose in all directions. He suddenly remembered the kind of joy Huang Yaoshi had described to him: "To flick my robe on the zenith of the high peak and to wash my feet in the river thousands of miles long." At the current moment, he could almost feel the same kind of lofty sentiments and aspirations. Although he really yearned to find out what kind of blade had been buried in the tomb, he felt afraid to offend the deceased master, so he gave up the thought and simply sat down, holding his knees in his arm, and breathed in against the wind. Soon, he felt as if his chest had been filled with pure energy and he could just ride the wind and glide in the air.

Several chirrups came from the bottom of the cliff. Yang Guo looked down and saw  the  Divine  Eagle jumping its way up the cliff by hooking the small holes with its talons. Although the eagle had a heavy body, its leg and talon strength was simply amazing. Only moments later, the eagle had made its way up to the rock platform.

After taking a brief look around, the Divine Eagle nodded toward Yang Guo and chirped. The sounds of the chirps were quite different from the sound of its regular chirps.

"Brother Eagle, unfortunately I don't have the skills of Gongye Chang and can't understand anything you say. Otherwise you could have told me the entire life story of this Senior Master Dugu," Yang Guo said with a smile.

The Divine Eagle let out several more chirrups and then reached out with its talons. Grabbing onto some of the rocks on the sword tomb, it started moving them aside.

A thought suddenly popped into Yang Guo's head. "Senior Master Dugu had superior martial arts skills. Could he have left behind some kind of sword arts manual or manuscript?"

The Divine Eagle’s talons kept moving and soon had moved away all the stones on top of the sword tomb, exposing three long swords lying side by side. Between the first sword and the second sword lay a long rock strip. The three long swords and the long rock strip lay neatly on a stone slab.

Yang Guo picked up the first sword on the left and saw two rows of small words carved on the slab stone underneath where the sword was placed.

"Fierce, aggressive and able to penetrate any obstacle, with it, I competed with the heroes of  the Northern Plains during my teenage years."

Looking more carefully at the sword, he found it to be about four feet long. The blade flashed in the daylight. It was indeed a very sharp sword.

Laying the sword back in its original place, he then picked up the long rock strip. There were also two rows of small words underneath carved on the stone slab.

"Flexible Sword of the Purple Rose, I used it prior to the age of thirty. With it, I accidentally wounded a righteous man. A weapon of doom, I abandoned it in a deep valley." "The sword is missing because he had abandoned it," Yang Guo thought. "I wonder how he ended up wounding a righteous man. Perhaps no one will ever get to know the story behind it."

After a short contemplation, he reached out to pick up the second sword. But only inches off the slab stone, the sword fell out of his grip and smacked back onto the slab stone. A loud clank echoed as sparks flashed everywhere. It gave Yang Guo a good shock.

Although the sword looked dark with nothing unusual, it turned out to be extremely heavy. The sword was only slightly longer than three feet, but it weighed at least one hundred and ten to one hundred and thirty pounds, several times heavier even than the heaviest saber or halberd used on the battlefield. He had not expected it to be this heavy when he picked it up. Caught by surprise, he had lost grip on the sword. The second time he picked it up, knowing what to expect, he had a good grip on the sword. When prepared, something as heavy as one hundred and thirty pounds really wasn't hard for him at all. Taking a better look at the sword, he found both sides of the blade blunt, and the tip of the sword was more like a half circle.

"This sword is too heavy. How can someone wield a sword like this and still be able to control it well? Besides, the edges on both sides and the sword tip are all blunt. How strange!" he thought aloud.

Looking down on the stone slab underneath where the sword was, he also found two rows of small words.

"Heavy sword with blunt edges, simplicity brings superiority. Before I reached the age of forty, I used it to roam the entire world under Heaven."

Yang Guo murmured the words "heavy sword with blunt edges, simplicity brings superiority" repeatedly. He seemed to have comprehended part of the idea, but the idea was still very vague in his head. There were many styles of sword arts in the world, but regardless of style or school, each sword art always emphasized flexibility and speed. How should this heavy sword be used? He couldn't help imagining how the Senior Master had wielded the heavy sword and soon fell into a trance.

Only after a long while did Yang Guo lay the heavy sword down and reached out for the third sword. But this time something went wrong again. He had thought that this third sword must have been even heavier than the previous one, so when he reached out to pick up the sword, he made sure he had shifted enough strength to his left arm, but the sword turned out to be so light that he felt as if he had only picked up empty air. Casting a closer glance at it, he found a wooden sword in his hand. After the many years, part of the sword body and the hilt were almost completely rotten. The words underneath said,

"After the age of forty, I no longer relied on weaponry. Bushes, trees, bamboo sticks or rocks, all could be my swords. From then on, I achieved great progress and slowly reached the realm of overcoming the sword without a sword."

Laying the wooden sword back to its original place  respectfully,  Yang  Guo  sighed  in  great  admiration. "The Senior Master's brilliant skills must have excelled way beyond my imagination," he murmured.

Thinking of the idea that there might be sword art manuals of some kind underneath the stone slab, he grabbed it and lifted it up. But there was nothing under except the hard surface of the rock platform. He couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed.

The Divine Eagle let out a loud chirp. Lowering its head, he picked the heavy sword up with his beak and then placed it in Yang Guo's hand. With another loud chirp, the eagle suddenly swung his left wing and smacked down towards Yang Guo's head. The swing was so fierce and powerful that Yang Guo could feel the strong wind generated by it long before the eagle's wing even came close to him. In a split second, Yang Guo felt as if he couldn't even breathe, and when he finally broke out from the brief shock, the Divine Eagle had held its wing still about one foot away from his head. Another two chirps came from the eagle.

"Brother Eagle, are you interested in checking out my Kung Fu skills?" Yang Guo grinned. "I've got nothing else to do. Fine, let's have some fun."

But it would be too hard to wield the over-one-hundred-pound heavy sword, so he put it down and picked up the first sword. To his surprise, the Divine Eagle suddenly retracted its two wings and turned his head aside, paying no more attention to him, its face appeared covered with disdain.

Yang Guo immediately understood. "You want me to wield the heavy sword? But my Kung Fu skills are so ordinary. I am certain I would be no match for you, especially on top of this steep cliff, Brother Eagle. You've got to give me some leeway!" he said with a grin.

Picking the heavy sword back up, he gathered his inner energy around his lower stomach and shifted his strength to his left arm before thrusting the sword out slowly. The Divine Eagle didn't even turn around. Swinging its left wing backwards, the Divine Eagle attacked, its wing colliding with the heavy sword. Yang Guo felt a stream of vigorous force rushing toward him passing through the sword, so powerful that he almost ran out of breath. In a rush, he let out a roar and fought the force back with all his strength. The sword shook slightly between the two forces and suddenly all Yang Guo could see was complete darkness, and seconds later he fell unconscious.

Slowly, he regained consciousness, not knowing how much time had passed. Something incredibly bitter in his mouth immediately caught his attention, while, some kind of bitter juice kept dripping down his throat. He opened his eyes and saw the Divine Eagle placing a dark purple ball shaped thing into his mouth. This thing stunk like a rotten fish, but Yang Guo ate it anyway, thinking that since the Divine Eagle was extremely intelligent, this thing in its mouth had to be something good. With only a gentle bite, the skin of the ball shaped thing cracked open and immediately his mouth was filled with bitter juice.

The juice was extremely bitter and smelly and it tasted awful. Yang Guo really wanted to spit it all out, but he didn't want to go against the Divine Eagle's good will and finally managed to swallow it. A few moments later, he tried to slightly control his inner energy flow, and to his surprise, he found his breathing smooth and fluent. He stood back up, and again, not only did he not feel tired or exhausted, but instead, he felt totally refreshed, no, it was even better than before.

Yang Guo was puzzled. Logically, when someone got knocked out with a strong blow, even if the person was lucky enough to not get injured seriously, he would at least feel soreness all over his body. Could that dark purple ball shaped thing be some kind of magical cure?

He bent over and picked the heavy sword up. It felt as if the sword had become slightly lighter than before. Right at that second, the Divine Eagle let out another loud chirp before striking with its wing again. This time Yang Guo dared not take on the blow directly and dodged to the side. The Divine Eagle took a step forward and struck again with both wings, fierce and powerful. Yang Guo knew that the eagle had no ill intentions toward him, but even though the eagle was extremely intelligent, it was still just an animal. With the kind of mighty power it possessed, when it attacked with its wings, it wouldn't really know when to stop or how to restrain its power. If he had gotten hit by the wing and fallen off the rock platform, it would surely kill him. Seeing the two wings striking toward him, he took two steps back in a hurry. By then, his left foot was already on the edge of the rock platform.

Who would have thought that the eagle would show no mercy? With a quick stretch, its sharp beak shot out toward Yang Guo's chest. Having no space to retreat back, Yang Guo had no choice but to block the attack with the sword. The peck landed squarely on the sword. A tremendous shock ran through Yang Guo's arm and he almost had to let go of the heavy sword. The Divine Eagle immediately followed with a low sweep using its right wing and struck toward Yang Guo's ankles. Astonished, Yang Guo jumped up and leaped over the Divine Eagle's head, rushing toward the inside  of  the  platform.  In  fear  that  the  eagle would follow up its attacks, he waved the sword backward. A loud clank echoed as the sword collided with another peck from the eagle.

Having so narrowly escaped death, Yang Guo broke out in a cold sweat. "Brother Eagle," he shouted, "I am not Master Dugu!" Feeling achy and weak in the knees, he sat down. The Divine Eagle let out two low chirps and halted its attack.

Having blurted out the words "I am not Master Dugu" without thinking, Yang Guo suddenly thought of something. The eagle had been a long time companion of Senior Master Dugu. The way it had struck and moved about actually had matched loosely with martial arts principles. Perhaps when Senior Master Dugu sometimes became bored living in the desolate valley all by himself, he had treated the eagle as if it was a sparring partner of his. Senior Master Dugu had long ago passed away, along with all his superior martial arts techniques. But it might be possible to find some traces of this great Master's martial arts style and essence from the eagle. At that thought, he became pleased and stood up.

"Brother Eagle, watch out!" he shouted. "Here comes another sword move!" Pushing the heavy sword forward as fast as he could, he thrust it toward the Divine Eagle's chest.

The Divine Eagle blocked the sword with its left wing and then struck another heavy blow with its right wing. Its strength was simply too strong. Every time it swung its wings, the force it generated was on par with the kind of force generated by several first-class fighters hitting out with their palm strikes at the same time. Besides, the sword in Yang Guo's hand was simply too heavy for him to use any sword moves out of the “Quanzhen Sword Art” or “Jade Maiden Sword Art”. So for defense, all he could do was to dodge to the sides, and for offense, all he did was thrust the sword forward clumsily.

After a few moments into the fight, Yang Guo became tired and sat down to rest. As soon as he sat down, the Divine Eagle would step aside. The two of them played like this for well over two hours before they finally slid down from the platform and went back to the cave.

When Yang Guo woke up the next morning, the Divine Eagle had already placed three dark purple stinking balls by his side. After some careful examination, Yang Guo finally realized that these were animal gallbladders. He remembered that when he met the Divine Eagle the first time, it was feeding on poisonous snakes and also fought with a giant serpent. These must be snake gallbladders. He wondered if the gallbladder of a poisonous snake would also be venomous; but after he had eaten a gallbladder the day before, he had felt totally refreshed and rejuvenated, and had even more strength in him than before. Besides, there were already strong toxins from the Passion Flower and the “Souls Freezing Silver Needles” inside his body; he really couldn't care less. So in a few bites, he quickly swallowed the gallbladders, and then sat up to meditate. To his great surprise, many of the pressure points along his inner channels that he had a hard time sending inner energy flowing through before suddenly opened up, and the energy flow inside him became quite smooth and fluent. With great happiness, Yang Guo uttered a loud cry of joy. Usually, when someone was in the middle of cultivating his inner energy flow in a meditative state, it was critical for him to abstain from irrelevant thoughts, especially extreme joy or extreme grief. But this time his inner energy continued to flow smoothly around his body with no hitches or any blockage.

Jumping back onto his feet, Yang Guo picked up the heavy sword and stepped out of the cave for some more rounds of sword training. Having no more fear and worries, even though he still dodged a lot more than blocking, once in a while, he was actually able to organize some sneak attacks in between the fierce and powerful forces created by the Divine Eagle waving of its mighty wings.

This kind of training went on for several days, and gradually, he was able to wield the heavy sword with better control. It almost felt as if the heavy sword was no longer as heavy as the time he first wielded it. In the meantime, he also came to realize that all the sword arts he had learned before were too intricate with too many fancy techniques. He kept thinking about Dugu Seeking-A-Loss's words "heavy sword with blunt edges, simplicity brings superiority" on the slab stone. They had  described  a  realm  of  sword  art  much more advanced compared to even the most ingenious sword techniques in the world. While sparring with the Divine Eagle, he concentrated on comprehending the movement of his sword, and what he started to realize was that the more ordinary a sword move is, the more difficult it was for an opponent to defend against it. For example, if he simply thrust out straight forward, as long as he had fierce and resourceful power to back it, the might of the thrust would be actually more powerful than the kind of sword arts like the “Jade Maiden Sword Art” that relied on  fluctuating  and  unpredictable  techniques.  Even  though  he only had one arm, and after eating those snake gallbladders the Divine Eagle had brought to him, his arm had become much stronger than before.

One day while strolling about the valley, he discovered the bodies of three giant poisonous snakes on the ground. Their bellies had been ripped open and cuts from sharp talons left snake blood all over their bodies. By then, he was sure that the bitter things he had been eating were snake gallbladders. The bodies of these poisonous snakes shinned in a vaguely golden color. He had never seen any snakes like these before and had no idea what kind of snakes they were.

"I suppose the reason why the Divine Eagle has such tremendous strength is because it had eaten a lot of gallbladders of this strange species of snakes," he thought to himself.

After over months worth of sparring, with some hard effort, Yang Guo could actually take on the Divine Eagle's mighty force head to head now. Each of his thrusts had also become so powerful that they would whistle in the air. He couldn't help but feel very satisfied with himself. Since his skills in martial arts had advanced to a new level, the martial arts he learned before all seemed to be so insignificant. It was just like once one climbs to the top of Mount Tai, the whole world  looked  small  and  insignificant.  But  in another thought, he realized that without his previous foundation  in  martial  arts  training,  he  wouldn't have been able to advance to such a new level. After all, the Divine Eagle was just an animal that couldn't speak. It might be able to guide some, but it would never be able to explain things or provide advice. Besides, the Divine Eagle didn't really know any true martial arts  skills.  All  it  had  was  the  god-given mighty strength plus the handful of moving and dodging techniques it had picked up while sparring with Dugu Seeking-A-Loss in the many years of companionship.

One morning, after Yang Guo got up, he found heavy rain pouring down from the dark cloud covered sky. "Brother Eagle, it's raining very hard. Are we still going to train today?" he asked the Divine Eagle. The eagle held Yang Guo's sleeve in its beak and pulled him toward the northeast. Then it let go of the sleeve and strode out. "Is there something strange again in the northeast?" Yang Guo thought aloud. He grabbed the heavy sword and then followed in the rain.

A couple of miles into the journey, some vague but continuous rumbling sound came to Yang Guo's attention. And the further they walked, the louder the rumbling sound became. It was the sound of a waterfall.

"With such a pouring rain, I'd better watch out for mountain torrents," Yang Guo reminded himself.

After turning round a mountain gorge the sound of the waterfall suddenly became so much louder; it could almost deafen one's hearing. Between two peaks, the waterfall crashed down and poured into the creek below like a white dragon. With thunderous echoes, the swift currents rushed downward with mighty force. The many broken branches and rocks, carried by the currents, only took a split second to be flushed down the stream. By then, the rain had become even heavier and Yang Guo had become soaking wet. A thin mist from the smashing waterfall surrounded everything, creating a magnificent view. But seeing the mighty force from the mountain torrent, Yang Guo couldn't help but feel a slight dread inside of him.

Holding Yang Guo's sleeve in its beak, the Divine Eagle dragged him toward the creek as if it wanted Yang Guo to jump in.

"Why do you want me to go down there? The stream is running very swiftly. I am afraid that I won’t be able to hold myself steady," Yang Guo asked in surprise.

The Divine Eagle let go of Yang Guo's sleeve, and after a long and loud roar, it jumped into the creek and landed steadily on a huge rock in the middle of the creek. The eagle swung its left wing forward. A rock that had been carried down by the rushing current was sent back up the stream by the swing. As soon as the rock came back down with the current again, it swung its wing once again, and sent the rock flying up the stream a second time. The eagle did the same thing five or six more times, and the rock never made it past the eagle. By the seventh time, the Divine Eagle gave it a good smack, which sent the rock flying out of the water and it landed on the bank. The Divine Eagle then leaped back onto the bank and stood next to Yang Guo.

Yang Guo understood. Demonic Swordsman Dugu Seeking-A-Loss must have come here  often  to  train sword arts in the mountain torrent every time it rained. But he knew very well that he didn't yet possess such skills and strength. Feeling afraid, he hesitated.

Suddenly, the Divine Eagle extended its wing out and pushed Yang Guo on the arm. Since it was standing so close to Yang Guo, and the push caught Yang Guo by surprise, he lost his footing and fell into the stream.

In the rush, Yang Guo quickly used a technique called the "Thousand Pound Plummet" and landed on that huge rock the Divine Eagle had stood on. As soon as his feet entered the water, the great force from the swift current almost swept him off his feet. Yang Guo stumbled back and forth and had a hard time maintaining his balance.

"Senior Master Dugu is a human, I am also a human. If he could hold himself steady, why can't I?" Yang Guo thought to himself. So he took a deep breath and then concentrated all his attention on the effort to fight the force of the swift currents. That alone had exhausted all his strength. It was simply impossible for him to spare any strength to hit the rocks in the current with the heavy sword.

In the amount of time it took to burn a joss stick, Yang Guo had exhausted all his strength, so he jabbed his sword on the rock, and with a push, leaped back on to the bank. Before he even had a moment to catch his breath, the Divine Eagle had already swung its wing toward  him  once  again.  Having  being  on  his guard, he dodged the push swiftly. Quickly taking in a few deep breaths, he jumped back down into the creek himself, thinking, "This Eagle Brother is indeed a strict teacher  and  a  forthcoming  friend.  He wouldn't cut me any slack in the training. He certainly has high expectations, and I, of course, want good improvement."

With this thought, he directed all his energy to the lower half of his body and held his footing steadily. As time went by, he gradually comprehended some techniques as to how to focus his energy and how to best utilize his strength. Even though the mountain torrent had grown larger and water had risen up to his waist, he was able to hold his own a little easier compared to the previous efforts. A few moments passed and by then water had risen up to his chest and soon up to his mouth.

"Even though I can hold my footing now, I don't think I'll just stand here and get drowned!" he thought. So he leapt back on to the bank.

Who had expected that the Divine Eagle had been waiting for this by the bank? Before his feet touched the ground, the eagle struck out with its wing. Yang Guo hurriedly blocked it using the heavy sword, but the striking force sent Yang Guo right back into the steam. With a splash, he fell back into the water.

When his feet touched the giant rock under the water, his entire body was under the surface. Water had filled his mouth as he was falling. Yang Guo knew that if he had spit the water out of his mouth, then his inner energy would shift upward, thus reducing the strength in his legs, so he held his breath and took a stable stance. A few moments later, he pushed hard with his feet and leapt in the air. A stream of water darted out from his mouth. After taking a quick breath Yang Guo fell back down to the stream bottom. The turbulence and swift currents rumbled past above his head. He simply stayed still like a firm rock in midstream. Gradually his mind calmed down.

"Brother Eagle wanted me to stand in the middle of the mountain torrent, but if I don't hit the rocks in the current, for sure he would belittle me," Yang Guo thought.

He was a man of great pride and was always eager to excel. Even though the eagle was only an animal, he would still rather not lose face in front of it. So when he spotted the branches and rocks brought down by the current, he jabbed and stabbed and tried hard to push them back the way they had come from. In the water, the rocks had become lighter. The heavy sword also felt lighter and easier to control when he waved it around under water. He waved and swung and jabbed and thrust the sword until he was completely exhausted and begun to have a hard time holding his footing. Then he finally leapt back onto the bank.

He was quite afraid that the Divine Eagle would once again force him back into the steam. Without some rest, his tiring legs probably wouldn't be able to stand the forces from the mountain torrent. Not to his surprise, the Divine Eagle didn't want him back on the bank. As soon as it saw him leaping out of the water, the eagle struck out with its wing.

"Brother Eagle," Yang Guo shouted in complaint, "do you know you are killing me right now?"

He jumped back into the creek for a little while but simply could not stand the current any longer and had to leap back to the bank. Seeing the Divine Eagle's wing striking toward him, and not willing to sit down and give in, he had no other choices but to thrust the sword at the Divine Eagle. The two of them soon exchanged three moves, and to his great surprise, the Divine Eagle was forced to take one step back.

"Excuse me!" Yang Guo shouted as he extended his arm and thrust forth the sword again. Sound of whistling echoed as the blade cut through thin air – this was something quite different from his past experience.

Seeing the tip of Yang Guo's sword approaching rapidly toward it, the Divine Eagle no longer dared to take it straight on and had to dodge aside.

Yang Guo knew that the half-day worth of training in the mountain torrents must have improved his strength tremendously. A mixed feeling of shock and joy swarmed in his heart. He couldn't help but question himself, "It should certainly take more than a couple of weeks to increase one's strength and power. How did I gain such great strength after wielding the sword underwater for a mere half-day?" He finally concluded that it had to be the gallbladders from the strange specie of snakes. Those gallbladders must have magical effects for increasing one's power and strength. That was why his strength and inner power had increased tremendously, and he had only noticed it when he released the strength accidentally in dangerous circumstances.

He sat by the creek and meditated for a while. His strength soon replenished. This time he jumped back into the creek for more training without being forced by the Divine Eagle. By the time he leapt back up the bank, the Divine Eagle was no longer waiting by the creek, leaving no clue as to where it had gone.

The rain had begun to slow down. Yang Guo figured that mountain torrents would have to be a lot smaller and weaker the next day. Since he didn't feel that tired, it would be better to train some more right now while the torrent still lasted. At that thought, he jumped back into the creek.

By the time he got back onto the bank the forth time, he found two snake gallbladders placed closed to the bank. Feeling utterly grateful for the Divine Eagle's caring, he ate them and then continued on with his training. Night came, and the mountain torrent had slowly become smaller and weaker.

That night he didn't sleep at all and kept on training in the creek. Gradually he began to realize many sword art principles such as piercing following the  force,  blocking  against  the  force,  slashing  from  the side, and chopping with a back swing. By then he finally understood: Wielding a sword this way, nothing would be strong enough to stand the force from the sword, and there would be no need for the sword to have a sharp blade. But without such a unique heavy  sword,  which  was  twenty  or  even  thirty  times heavier than a normal sword, this kind of sword art wouldn't have  been  effective.  If  it  were  just  an ordinary blade, the force released from a gentle wrist snap would have shocked the blade into pieces.

The rain finally stopped, and the clear sky shone dimly in dark blue. Moonlight from a new moon illuminated the trees and the water in the creek, painting everything silver. Yang Guo watched the swift currents flushing down the steam path non-stop, his mind as clear as the sky. By then, he understood the principles behind the flow of currents and mastered the techniques with the heavy sword. He knew that he had learned the entire sword art of the heavy sword and there was no more to learn. Even if the Demonic Swordsman could have come back to life, all he could have taught would be the same. From now on as his inner energy grew, he would be able to use lighter swords, and eventually be able to wield a wooden sword like the heavy sword. But that could all be attributed to the advancement of his own abilities and skills. Regarding the sword art, this was as far as it would ever go.

Yang Guo paced back and forth along the bank. Raising his head high, he stared at the bright moon and soon was lost in thought. If Senior Master Dugu hadn't left him this heavy sword, or if there wasn't the Divine Eagle to guide him, and if he didn't eat those strange snakes’ gallbladders and  thus  gain  a tremendous amount of inner strength, then the entire world wouldn't have had the luxury of seeing this sword art once again. Dugu Seeking-A-Loss didn't have any help or references yet was able to comprehend such a pinnacle of sword arts all by himself. His cleverness must have been a hundred times better than mine.

Yang Guo's admiration and understanding of this past sword master kept growing  as  he  imagined  the Senior Master's demeanor in his mind. Suddenly, a thought popped into his head.

"If Gu Gu could see the great kung fu skills I possess now, she would be very happy for me for sure. Alas, where is she now? Is she also staring at the beautiful moon and thinking of me?" As soon as he thought of the Xiao Longnu, severe pain arose inside his chest.

"Even though I've comprehended the ultimate principles of the sword art," Yang Guo thought, "what good does it do if I stay here in the remote mountains all by myself? What if the poison from the Passion Flower suddenly activated tomorrow and killed me? Wouldn't this magnificent sword art get lost again for eternity?"

At this thought, aspirations arose again in his heart. "I shall follow Senior Master Dugu's footsteps and defeat all heroes under heaven with this sword art. Then I can die with no regrets," he spoke out this thought loudly.

Looking at what was left of his right arm, Yang Guo knitted his eyebrows into a straight line, and his hatred for Guo Fu, the person who had mercilessly cut off his arm, swarmed his heart once more.

"This girl relied on the fact that her father is a legendary hero and her mother is the chief of the Beggar Clan. She has never respected me. When I was still a kid and lived in her home, she treated me with much distain and disrespect. I was actually doing her a favor when I lied to the Wu brothers. If any one of the Wu brothers ended up dead because of her, wouldn't she be the one to blame for it? Humph! She took advantage of my severe illness and cut my arm off. If I don't settle the score with her one day, I am not a true man!"

He had always been one who took in kindness and grudges to his heart. He was without a forgiving heart. Before, right after his arm was cut off, he had no other choice but to hide in the remote valley and wait for the wound to heal. Now his wound had sealed and his Kung Fu skills had progressed dramatically, he could no longer hold in his urge for revenge. Having made up his mind, he immediately returned to the cave.

"Brother Eagle," he said to the Divine Eagle, "I'll never be able to repay the great kindness you've shown me. There are still several matters in the Martial World that I need to take care of. That's why I need to leave you temporarily. I'll be back here again once I've taken care of that business. If you don't mind, I need to borrow Senior Master Dugu's heavy sword for the trip."

He bowed down toward the Divine Eagle deeply and then knelt down in front of the stone grave of Dugu Seeking-A-Loss to salute before heading out of the valley. The Divine Eagle walked with him all the way to the entrance of the valley. After many affectionate hugs between the man and the eagle, Yang Guo bid his farewell and got on with his journey.

The big sword was indeed very heavy. If he tied it to his waistband, the waistband would break in no time. Yang Guo cut down three old vines from the bushes and made a rope out of them. Tying the heavy sword on his back, he ran using his Qing-Gong (lightness kung fu) and headed straight toward the  city  of Xiangyang.

He arrived outside the city as the time of day approached dawn. He understood that settling his business in broad daylight is not the wisest of decisions. Besides he's due one night's sleep, and his energy level will have plummeted. Uncle Guo and Aunt Guo were experts in the field of martial arts. At this point in time their health must be restored, a fierce struggle is guaranteed if by chance he was to confront the both of them. Therefore he ferreted out a thick patch of grass near a cemetery outside the city and slept there for many hours. Later he performed breathing exercises and inner strength cultivation; and gathered some wild fruit to serve as meal. He waited for the first watch of the night before he set foot below the city wall of Xiangyang.

Xiangyang’s imposing wall was like a fortress. That day when Jinlun Fawang, Li Mochou and others leapt from the top of the city wall, they still required padding for their feet set up to prevent possible injuries. Right now, trying to climb from the wall base to the top is not going to be an easy task. Yang Guo had already thought about this and came up with a method during his time resting near the cemetery. Thinking: "I will never have enough time to learn Uncle Guo's kung fu of “Walking on Heaven's Staircase”. What ever method Senior Dugu used to get up that cliff, I will capitalize on to climb up the wall of Xiangyang." He proceeded towards a secluded area near the east gate, luckily the troops that guarded near the top of the city wall made their inspection from afar, much to the convenience of Yang Guo. As he leapt up, he straightened out his heavy sword and spared no effort to drive it into the city wall. The heavy sword might be blunt, but the ending force was unyieldingly strong. The city wall made use of extremely thick granite for its construction. Hearing the noise of 'peng', the wall was cracked open by the sword, which left a round niche. Yang Guo had never expected an effortless jab with the sword could have such power, and was pleasantly surprised about that. Next, whilst jumping up his left foot was placed in the cavity, he raised his sword and stabbed a hole into the wall just above his head. This time he didn't put a lot of power into it, just enough that he avoided alarming the garrison troops.

He helped himself up step by step until he was at the point where there're several zhangs left before he reaches the top. From here he displayed his “Gecko Crawling Wall Skill” to rise over the top of the wall and hid in a secret place. Inside the city wall were a series of stony steps that sloped down. Yang Guo waited until the troops walked away and sneaked down past them and dashed ahead straight to Guo's residence.

After taking nourishment from the snake gallbladders his inner energy rapidly increased. At the same time his body was more agile and his lightness kung fu was far greater than former days. But Guo Jing's martial arts were still very dangerous, there's a likely chance that the strength of his palms in the “Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms” series is unchallengeable. In addition, there were the mysterious and diverse set of the “Dog Beating Techniques” used by Huang Rong. He only knew about 60% to 70% of it so he couldn't be too careless. As he reached the outside of Guo residence, he quietly leapt over the wall and entered.

Bypassing the garden, he promptly glanced at the house where he originally stayed. He went up to its windows, listened, and found that no one was in there. He gently pushed open the door and entered.

In the darkness he noticed the bed curtains and other furniture were no different than when he left. All that was missing was the bed's pillow. He lowered his body and sat on the edge of the bed, reminiscing privately about how his healthy right arm was lost forever within this bed. A stroke of sickness and anger latched onto his heart.

He was blessed with pretty and charming looks; by nature he was also somewhat lustful and cheerful. He may be passionately devoted to Xiao Longnu and thinks of her constantly, but there were many young girls who couldn’t help but pour out their affectionate feelings whenever they met him. Girls like Cheng Ying, Lu Wushuang and Gongsun Lu’E either secretly had a crush on him or openly flirtatious in front of him. His hand lightly stroked the side of the bed, and he faced the inconsolable truth that  he  had  become disabled. If he ever bumped into those love-stricken girls, he will no doubt be viewed as a ridiculous and pitiful soul in their eyes. His martial arts maybe fantastic, but he's still a mere freak that's shocking to behold. Thinking of all the ups and downs and viewing all the events that happened in his life, he couldn’t help but quietly whisper: "It is only GuGu…it’s GuGu alone whose feelings for me won't deteriorate. Even something as catastrophic as losing four limbs, it will be no different to her in the end."

Convinced now, he suddenly heard on his east side the muffled sounds of an argument between two people. He could make out the voices were in fact Guo Jing and Huang Rong. Yang Guo was curious about the cause and thereupon tiptoed to search for where it originated. He found the room where the Guo couple were situated and eavesdropped outside their window.

All that was heard was Huang Rong yelling with rage: "Those two have plainly carried Xiang’er away to Passionless Valley to exchange for the antidote. How could you still go on and insist that Yang Guo is a good person? The child was just given birth two hours earlier and ended up in their hands. What chance does she have of surviving up to this point?" Those words dissolved into sobs.

Guo Jing said: "Guo’er is not that kind of person. Besides, time after time he's saved our lives. If Xiang’er’s life could help him trade for his own life, then I'll gladly accept it." The sobs drowned out Huang Rong's words: "You could do that, but I won't…"

Then the sounds of a baby crying loudly interrupted the conversation in the room, the noise was loud and clear. Yang Guo wondered: "Did they somehow manage to snatch the baby girl back from the clutches of Li Mochou? Then why did she say: 'What chance does she have of surviving up to this point'?" Holding his breath he raised his head against the window sill and looked around. He saw a baby cuddled safely in Huang Rong's arms. It so happens that the baby was facing the window towards him, Yang Guo understood what he saw. He had a square-face with huge protruding ears, his skin was coarsely dark and covered with fine fuzz. He’d carried the female infant Guo Xiang for a long period of time, and remembered she was light skinned and petite with delicate features on her face. She's the complete opposite to this plump baby. Huang Rong's back faced the window, and quietly settled the baby down, and said: "It was nice when the siblings were together; you'd better find his sister and bring her back home." Yang Guo only now comprehended that, from her womb, she gave birth to twins. She first gave birth to the baby girl Guo Xiang, and afterwards there arrived a male child. The moment her son entered this world, Xiao Longnu had already carried her daughter away.

Guo Jing wandered slowly and aimlessly around the room then said: "Rong’er, you usually recognize main principles. As soon as it involves matters of our children you lose your judgment. Can you not just put it to one side for the time being? At present the military affairs are in a state of urgency; how could I just leave Xiangyang and forget my responsibilities for an infant daughter?" Huang Rong said: "I did say I wanted to look for her by myself, but you’ll never permit me to leave. Are you actually going to let our child die for no reason?

Guo Jing said: "You haven't recovered yet, how can you go?"

Huang Rong turned on him with rage: "A father not wanting his daughter? It's a hard lot being a mother, what do you expect me to do?"

Yang Guo had been together with them for many years on Peach Blossom Island, and remembered them as a loving couple. No major arguments were involved. Now that their faces grew red with anger, all words were equally matched. It seemed clear that they've quarreled over this matter on many occasions. Huang Rong cried and spoke at the same time, Guo Jing showed a taut face while randomly walked back and forth around the room.

After a while, Guo Jing said: "Even if she's brought back, you'll treat her in the same way as you did Fu’er, pampering her till she's spoiled, she may as well count for nothing!"

Huang Rong loudly exclaimed: "What have you got against our Fu’er? She loves our daughter dearly, she may have been bit too reckless, but the reasons were quite understandable. If it was me, and Yang Guo insisted on taking my daughter, I'd even chop off his left arm for good measure."

Guo Jing's face contorted with anger and he bellowed out: "Rong’er, what are you talking about?" Raising his hand he heavily slammed the top of the table, 'peng!', scraps of wood flew all over the place. A practically rock-solid red wooden table was instantly broke in half by his strike. The baby boy was actually crying without knowing when to stop. When he heard the shout and the bang he automatically calmed down as a result of the fright he received.

Right at this moment, Yang Guo suddenly noticed a human silhouette below the window on the west side, also crouching down and quietly drawing back. Yang Guo thought: "So besides me, there's another eavesdropper outside the room, but who could it be?" So he tiptoed behind that person, and noticed that her figure was elegant, it's Guo Fu! The burning fury wasn't extinguished, Yang Guo thought: "Great! I've been looking for you!" Then behind him the light that radiated from inside was gone - the lamps were out.

Then he heard Huang Rong angrily speak: "Get out, stop frightening the baby!"

Yang Guo knew Guo Jing was about to come out, and his eyes would be able to locate Yang Guo very easily. So he shifted himself behind the rockery, and then quickly made his way outside Guo Fu's room. He launched himself high, and got himself on top of a tree, and concealed himself amongst the branches and leaves.

Within a moment, he saw Guo Fu return to her room. Then the voice of a woman said: "It's past the second period of night, sleep well Miss!" Guo Fu grunted: "I will sleep when I am actually asleep! Get out." The woman responded: "Very well." Then he saw a maidservant leave the area.

After quite a while, he saw Guo Fu faintly heave a long sigh of relief. Yang Guo thought: "What is that sigh meant for? You've taken away my arm from me; now it's your turn to lose an arm. But I'll take it easy on you because you're a woman, I won't harm you for the moment. If I did, it'll be just too easy. Such an act won't conform to the ideals of a real man." He paused in a moment of thought; he then came up with a strategy: "Alright then, I'll call out loudly, to get Uncle Guo's attention. Once I've defeated him, I'll settle an old score with his daughter. As a man who's got a clear conscience, no one will ever jest at my actions." But then reconsidered again: "Uncle Guo's martial arts are extraordinary, am I really able to triumph over him? I don't think so! Will this mean I can't take my revenge?" Recalling the way he lost his arm, the blood boiled up inside of him and his heart hardened. Just when he's about to jump down from the tree, the sound of footsteps approached, and a person came striding his way.

He noticed the pace was stiff, the body was upright; it was none other than Guo Jing. He reached the outside of his daughter's room, and gently knocked on the door, saying: "Fu’er, are you asleep yet?"

Guo Fu arose and replied: "It's you father?" There was a hint of fear in her voice.

Yang Guo was surprised by this: "Is it possible that Uncle Guo knew I've arrived and so came to offer his daughter protection? Alright then! You'll be my first opponent! If I lose to you, my life is yours to take."

Guo Jing uttered an 'ng' sound. Guo Fu opened the door, raised her head and looked directly into her father's eyes, and immediately hung her head.

End Chapter 26. 
@Chapter 27 – Fighting Strength with Wisdom
Guo Jing walked through the door and went to sit in a chair in front of the bed, not saying a word. The two people have been tense and quiet for half the day. Finally, Guo Jing asked: “Where have you been all this time?"

Guo Fu said: “I...I've wounded Yang da ge (Big Brother Yang). I was afraid you'd punish me, so…so..."

Guo Jing said: “So you went out to avoid me for several days?” Guo Fu bit her lip, nodding. Guo Jing continued: “You were waiting for my anger to pass before coming back?"

Guo Fu nodded, suddenly throwing herself into his arms. She said: “Father, are you still mad at daughter?"

Guo Jing stroked her hair gently, lowering his voice: “I wasn't angry. I haven't been angry. I was only sad about you."

Guo Fu cried out: “Father!" and sobbed on his chest.

Guo Jing looked up and gazed out at the roof, not saying a word. He waited for her weeping to subside then said: “Yang Guo's grandfather Tie Xingong  and  your  grandfather  Xiao  Tiangong  were  sworn brothers, so were his father and yours. You know that.” Guo Fu made a low sound: “Hmm." Guo Jing then continued: “Even though this boy Yang Guo has always done things as he pleases, he has a heroic heart. He has so many times saved your father and mother's lives, and even yours. He is young in years but to our country and people, his contribution is not small. You should know that."

Guo Fu heard her father's tone getting more and more serious, even more afraid to continue. Guo Jing got up, adding: “There is another matter you don't know about. Today I will tell you. Guo’er's father Yang Kang's conduct during those years wasn't very scrupulous. I was his sworn brother, yet I couldn't change him. He eventually died a tragic death at the Jiaxing Wang Tie Qiang temple. Even though it wasn't your mother who took his life, his death was caused by her. Our Guo family and his Yang family heavily…"

Yang Guo [hidden outside] heard the words 'Died a tragic death at the Jiaxing Wang Tie Qiang temple.' This was the first time he heard someone talking about his father's place of death. Filled with hatred in his heart, he was about to jump out ferociously but then Guo Jing continued: “I originally thought about betrothing you to him to make up for the hatred in my lifetime, who would have thought… who would have thought… alas!"

Guo Fu lifted her head, saying: “Father, he kidnapped my sister and said a lot of rubbish, slandering daughter. Father, even though his Yang family and ours go back a long way, that is not to say I have to let him bully me and not resist, does it?”

Guo Jing jumped up, shouting: “Apparently you cut off his arm, just how could he bully you? If he really wanted to, even if you had ten arms, he would have already cut them all off. Is that the sword handle?" Guo Fu, not daring to say anything more, took out the 'Lady' sword from under the pillow. Guo Jing reached out, his hand slightly shaking. The edge of the blade made a chilling sound. His voice trembled: "Fu’er, this must be done. Even though I'm being severe with you, in my heart I love you just the same as your mother.” His voice turned gentle at the end of the speech.

Guo Fu let out a soft cry: “Daughter knows."

Guo Jing then said: “Good, stretch out your right arm. You cut off another’s arm; I'll cut off yours just the same. Your father has lived a righteous life and can't follow selfish instincts like shielding his own daughter."

Guo Fu knew perfectly well that this time for her father must be difficult, but she hadn't expected him to go as far as demanding her arm. Frightened, the color drained out of her face. She called out loudly: “Father!" Guo Jing paled, both eyes gazing at her.

Yang Guo hadn't expected Guo Jing to be this righteous. He considered the situation, heart beating fast, thinking: “Should I or should I not stop all this? Should I call out to spare Guo Guniang [Miss Guo]?" While still trying to make a decision, Guo Jing's long sword was raised. Then it cut down through the air, about to chop off Guo Fu's arm.

There suddenly came a shout. Someone jumped through the window in a swift movement. Even before the body arrived, a stick reached out, blocking Guo Jing's long sword. That person was of course Huang Rong.

She didn't say a word, sending out three successive hits, all Da Gou Bang Fa “Dog Beating Stick Technique” tricks. First, her beating stick technique was profound. Second, she caught Guo Jing by surprise, forcing him to move back two steps. Huang Rong called out: “Fu’er, why are you not running away?"

Guo Fu didn't have her mother's wits. Facing a crisis, she was scared frozen, unable to move. Huang Rong's left hand carried her baby while her right hand held the stick. She pushed her daughter's body out of the window straight onto the ground, crying out: “Quickly head back to Peach Blossom Island [Tao Hua Dao]. Ask Ke Gonggong [Grandpa Ke] to come plead with your father." At the same time, she wielded the bamboo stick, using Da Gou Bang Fa's "tangle" and "seal" tricks to block Guo Jing from following his daughter. She called out: “Go quickly, Go quickly! Get the small red horse at the mansion's entrance."

From the beginning, Huang Rong had understood her husband's straight forward character, quite old- fashioned and extremely righteous. This time her daughter created a big disaster and then hid away for several days before coming home. In case her husband was still enraged, and had decided on a severe punishment, she had already arranged for someone to bring the red horse to the outside of the mansion's entrance, along with a saddle, clothes, and some silver coins. If he could be persuaded, she would let him beat their daughter to settle the matter. That would be extremely lucky. If not, Guo Fu had better be sent far away and, after a long while, come back to seek a reunion with her father.

The husband and wife quarreled. Moving towards his daughter's bedroom, Guo Jing's face was anguished, but in his heart he knew it was fortunate that his daughter’s arm was saved. Huang Rong, relying on Wu Gong [martial arts] alone, wouldn't be able to stop her husband. But Guo Jing was disadvantaged by seeing his wife carrying the baby and was not able to get to Guo Fu before she rushed out into the garden outside the mansion's entrance.

Yang Guo was hiding in a tree, and watched what happened. While Guo Fu was coming out through the window, he only had to raise his sword to strike, how would she be able to get away? But then he thought about Guo Jing and Huang Rong's earth-shattering fight caused by him; he would be taking advantage of someone fleeing from danger, he just couldn't do it.

Then Huang Rong lashed out several repeated strikes, forcing Guo Jing to fall back a couple of steps. This time Guo Jing was leaning against the bed with nowhere to retreat. Huang Rong suddenly called out “Take him" and tossed her baby to her husband. Guo Jing was alarmed, stretching his left hand to catch him. Huang Rong let down her bamboo staff, walking over to her husband. She pleaded: “Jing ge ge [Brother Jing], please spare Fu’er!"

Guo Jing shook his head, saying: “Rong’er, It's not that I don't love Fu’er. But she did this terrible thing. If I ignored it, how would it ever be settled? How would we apologize to Guo’er? Gods…his arm was cut off, with nobody to care for him. Whether he lives or he died by now we don't know. I…I really wouldn't mind cutting off my own arm…"

As Yang Guo heard Guo Jing's genuine words, he couldn't bear the heartache, his eyes turning red.

Huang Rong said: “Day after day we've searched for him and we haven't even seen his tracks. If something bad happened, there must have been a clue. Guo’er's Wu Gong [martial arts] are beginning to rivaled ours. Despite a serious injury, it wouldn't be a great obstacle."

Guo Jing said: “I hope so. I will go bring back Fu’er. We can't leave the matter like this."

Huang Rong smiled, saying: “She has already ridden the little red horse  out  of  town.  Why  would  you bother going after her?"

Guo Jing replied: “It's already past 3 AM; without Lu Da Ren’s [Your Excellency Lu] or my command emblem, who would dare open the city gate at night?"

Huang Rong sighed, saying: “Good, I'll follow you then!" She reached out to take back her son Guo Polu.

Guo Jing handed the baby over, his face full of regret. He then said: “Rong’er, I'm so sorry. But after Fu’er has been punished, even though handicapped, she will change as she won't have the advantage of…"

Huang Rong nodded: “That is so!" As her hands touched the baby swaddling cloth, they suddenly dropped down to Guo Jing's sides. She used her family’s “Orchid Brushing Accupoints" (Lan Hua Fu Xue) skills to seal his pressure points, " Deep Pool Liquid Accupoint" (Yuan Ye Xue) on his left arm and “Capital Gate Accupoint” (Jing Men Xue) on his right arm at the same time. These two points were under Guo Jing's arms so that he couldn't use his Wu Gong [martial arts]. If she didn't use such a dirty tactic, how would she be able to seal his pressure points? When Huang Rong  threw  the  baby  to  her  husband,  she  had already planned all this. Tricked by his wife, Guo Jing collapsed painfully onto the bed, unable to move.

Huang Rong picked up the baby. She removed Guo Jing's shoes, socks, and outer clothing, placing him nicely in bed. She put a pillow under his head, making sure he could rest comfortably, and then took the command emblem from his waist. Guo Jing looked at her, his eyes wide open, yet had no way to resist. Huang Rong put the baby next to him, leaving the two gentlemen lying together, and then covered them both with a cotton blanket, saying: “Jing ge ge, today I am temporarily to blame. As soon as I've seen Fu’er out of city, I will come back to personally cook for you several dishes, kowtow to you three times, and admit my crime."

Having said that, Huang Rong lifted his body up, giving him a kiss on the cheek. Guo Jing had heard such a speech before, then realized that his wife, who was already a mother of three children, was being mischievous, and was not listening to her husband. He dumbfoundedly watched her pursing her lips and floating out of the door. Then he thought about his two sealed pressure points. She probably wouldn't come back to release him, so he quickly used his internal energy to clear the pressure points. He wouldn't be able to catch up with his daughter anyhow. And for that matter, he didn't quite know whether to laugh or to cry.

Like most mothers Huang Rong was very concerned about her daughter's well-being since her daughter had to cover an arduous and dangerous journey (the more beautiful the daughter, the more hazardous the journey) to Peach Blossom Island (Tao Hua Dao). That's why, after leaving her husband and her baby, she went to her bedroom to fetch her ruan-wei-jia (Hedgehog protective suit), Peach Blossom Island's most treasured object, which she wrapped and clasped under her arm before chasing after her daughter, using her qing gong (lightness kung fu).

As she approached the Nan Men (Southgate) she watched from afar how Guo Fu on the red horse was bickering loudly with the garrison commander. The officer behaved very courteously but strictly. Without being shown a ling-pai (command emblem) he dared not open the city gate; a violation of this rule and he would be sentenced to death. Huang Rong thought: “This blockhead daughter of mine has been overprotected all her life; never being confronted with any problems, she doesn't try to solve difficulties using strategy, she can only shout angrily, which worsens the matter." Huang Rong hurriedly approached, held the ling-pai (which she had snatched from Guo Jing's waist belt) high and shouted: "This is the ling- pai of Honorable Lu! Please examine!"

As we know, the commanding general of Xiangyang was Lu Wende, although in practice it was Guo Jing who lead the city's defense; officially he was only a 'ke qing' (guest minister) who ordered on behalf of Lu.

Seeing Mrs. Guo with the ling-pai, the officer, smiling,  immediately  commanded  the  city  gate  to  be opened. He personally led his horse to Huang Rong and said: “Mrs. Guo, in case you need the horse of this junior officer, please take it".

“Fine, I'll borrow it.” Huang Rong said leaping on the horse.

After leaving Xiangyang, mother and daughter rode side by side. Several times Huang Rong wanted to bid farewell and ride back to Xiangyang, but each time she postponed it. So she accompanied her daughter further and further.

At that time, the region encompassing hundreds of li north of Xiangyang was already occupied by the Mongolian soldiers. Most of the Chinese had moved out. But the region south of Xiangyang was still dense with people although they lived in fear.

After about twenty li, dawn was setting in, Huang Rong and her daughter arrived at a small town, its shops and restaurants beginning to open.

“Fu’er", the mother said, “Let's have some breakfast before I return to Xiangyang."

Guo Fu nodded with tears flowing down her cheeks. In her heart she already deeply regretted having cut off Yang Guo's arm in anger, causing her now to be caught in such a horrible mess.

They went into a restaurant and ordered cooked beef and rice cakes. In a short time the meal was served but because they were depressed they didn't have much of an appetite.

Huang Rong gave the wrapped up ruan-wei-jia with the advice to wear the protective vest later on when Guo Fu stayed in an inn. She gave advice and admonitions with Guo Fu listening and nodding several times, still weeping. Seeing her daughter in such a pitiful state Huang Rong actually felt very reluctant and sorry to leave her, but her duty as wife and mother forced her to return to Xiangyang.

Suddenly, looking westwards she caught a glimpse of a basket filled with big red apples in a fruit shop. “Before I bid farewell to Fu’er I'll buy her some apples", she thought.

"Fu’er", she said rising, "You should force yourself to eat even though you don't have any appetite. In times of war you never know at what time you can get food again. Wait a moment; I'll buy you some fruit." She went out to approach the fruit shop.

After choosing ten scarlet apples, putting them in her bosom, Huang Rong groped in her pocket for money. Suddenly, a very loud woman's voice was heard: "Give me twenty catties of rice and one catty of salt. (1 catty = 1.1 pounds/ 500 grams) Put them all in this sack, please." Huang Rong cast a glance. The person speaking was a Taoist priestess [dao gu] wearing a yellow robe, standing in front of the neighboring shop.

The Taoist priestess was holding a baby with her left hand and groping in her pocket for some money. The baby's clothes were made of lake green satin with a small dark red horse embroidery, an embroidery Huang Rong used to sew. As soon as she noticed that, her hand trembled and her heart pounded, the money in her hand fell into the basket. That baby must certainly be her own daughter Guo Xiang!

Huang Rong had never actually met Li Mochou before. But with one look she saw the fly whisk, the Taoist robe and she was able to deduct in an instant that this Taoist priestess was the infamous Scarlet Serpent Deity, Li Mochou.

At the time she gave birth to Guo Xiang, the Mongolian enemy was attacking and the situation was chaotic; she’d had no chance to examine the baby's face. That's why, like being magnetized. she was drawn to look several times at the baby. Although the baby was still diminutive, it already showed signs of natural female beauty. With her cute features and ruddy complexion, she seemed well-fed and healthy looking. Huang Rong was pleasantly surprised, she almost shed tears. Polu, the baby she breast-fed herself, didn't look nearly that healthy.

After paying some silver, Li Mochou took the sack and left.

Huang Rong understood the urgency of the situation; without informing Guo Fu she gave  chase.  She thought: “This poisonous female is terribly cruel. Should I try  to  use  brute  force,  she  might  harm Xiang’er."

After leaving the city, Li Mochou ran westwards. While following, Huang Rong thought: “Li Mochou is Guo’er's Martial Uncle. Although they don't have a good relationship, after Fu’er cut-off Guo’er’s arm, we could say that the GuMu Pai (Ancient Tomb sect) and the Guo Family were bound in a feud. If this woman is going to meet Guo’er and Miss Long, I won't be a match against all three of them together. It's wiser to force a one-to-one fight with her now".

Li Mochou changed course to the South and entered the woods. Huang Rong accelerated, circling the woods and confronted the demoness. Seeing the sudden appearance of a beautiful woman, Li Mochou stopped short in surprise.

“If I'm not mistaken, I'm facing ‘Chi-lian xian-zi’ [Scarlet Serpent Deity] Taoist Elder Li", Huang Rong said with a smile. "I'm very pleased to meet you!"

Noticing the lithe and swift movements of the woman, the pale-yellow bamboo cane in her waist belt, Li Mochou at once put the sack down, she saluted smiling: “Junior has admired Mrs. Guo's famous name for ages, I feel delighted to meet you now."

At that time in the martial realm, the most famous female martial experts were  Huang  Rong  and  Li Mochou. 'Qing-jing san-ren' [Sage of Tranquility] Sun Bu’Er was already famous before them  but  her wugong (martial arts) were inferior. Xiao Longnu was good enough wugong-wise  but  she  was  still  too young and not experienced; she was barely known.

Both tigresses faced each other. One was the pampered daughter of the Eastern heretic Huang Yaoshi, wife of Da Xia (great hero) Guo Jing, Bang Zhu (clan chief) of Gai Bang (Beggar Clan), the other was the notorious cruel demoness armed with a fly whisk, “Soul Freezing Silver Needles” and “Five Poisons Divine Palm”, three lethal skills which had caused much trembling and fear in the Jianghu realm.

It's the first time these two people have met, they scrutinized each other carefully, and each marveling about how unexpectedly beautiful the other was. But secretly each was on guard because surely each other's fame was based on real ability.

Mrs. Guo said with a smile: “Taoist Elder Li, junior has always revered you, don't be over polite".

Li Mochou answered: “Mrs. Guo is chief of the Beggar Clan and a leading personality in the martial realm, junior regrets not having met you much sooner."

After both sides exchanged the usual pleasantries, Huang Rong asked: “Elder Li, the baby you carry is very sweet and cute. Whose baby is it?" As she said that, Huang Rong had already thought of ways to get the baby back before they began the duel.

“This is very shaming for Gu Mu Pai" [Ancient Tomb Sect], the demoness answered. “Junior has not been able to guide my shi mei (younger apprentice sister) on the right path. This is Long shi mei’s baby "

Huang Rong was surprised. She couldn't guess why Li Mochou was lying.

But the demoness wasn't deliberately lying. She did believe the baby was Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu’s child. Because she was enraged that her shifu only taught the Jade Heart Manual to her shimei, she used this opportunity to mention her shimei’s sins.

“I thought Miss Long a decent girl", Huang Rong said. “It's unbelievable such a thing has happened. Who's the father?"

“The father?" the demoness said. “Hmm…It's definitely shameful to mention! The father of this child is Yang Guo, my shimei’s disciple." Huang Rong, who was usually good at faking, couldn't help reddening, and anger swelled up.

But she only changed colour briefly and instantly her expression returned to normal. She said: “That is deliberately creating trouble. But the baby is so cute. Elder Li, may I hug it?" She took an apple from her bosom and moved it to-and-fro in front of the baby. “Good child, your round face certainly resembles this apple."

After stealing Guo Xiang, Li Mochou hid herself in the woods and happily played everyday with the baby. Each morning she would milk the leopard to feed the baby. Li Mochou had committed abundant crimes, but basically she wasn't cruel at heart. Because of rejected love, she hated the world and its inhabitants, she turned cruel. Since meeting the cute and sweet Guo Xiang, her inborn mother instinct was awakened. Often in the deep of the night she would think about the baby. Deep in her heart she was uncertain that she would agree, in case Xiao Longnu wanted to exchange the ‘Jade Heart Manual’ for the baby.

As Huang Rong wanted to hug the baby, like all mothers, who were always pleased if their babies were praised, she also was happy and was ready to give in.

Huang Rong's hands barely touched the baby's clothes, she couldn't hide the loving expression on her face, the radiant expression of a loving mother who had thought of her missing child day and night without knowing its fate and whereabouts. Now the child in question was at arms length. Li Mochou noticed the look and thought: “If she only wants to hug the baby, why that sudden change?" She hurriedly pulled back and leapt two zhangs backwards. She barely touched the ground as Huang Rong followed closing on her. Expecting an attack, Li Mochou heaved the sack at Huang Rong's face.

Huang Rong leapt to evade, causing the rice and salt to scatter on the ground. Li Mochou, whisk in the hand, said with a smile: “Mrs. Guo, do you intend to help Yang Guo get his child back?"

Huang Rong, reasoning the demoness to be suspicious already, now had decided to use force. She said smilingly: “I only want to hug that lovely child, you think too lowly of me."

Li Mochou said: “Guo Family's renowned name shook the martial realm, junior admired it greatly. Today I have seen the display of skills; the fame is really not an empty one. But junior has to deal with another matter and must leave." She was afraid that Guo Jing would appear, she turned and walked away.

Huang Rong leaped up and in midair drew her bamboo stick. The original “Dog beating Stick” was passed on to Lu Youjiao, the stick she had now was of the same length and weight but of a light-yellow colour. In midair she aimed at an Accupoint on Li Mochou's back. Li Mochou angrily thought: “We don't have any enmity for each other. Today we've met for the first time, I've talked with due respect to you, why do you attack me without any reason at all?" She checked the stick with her whisk. Huang Rong attacked continuously with six or seven moves, forcing Li Mochou to the  defensive.  Li  Mochou's  wugong  was actually slightly below Huang Rong's and further, she carried a baby, a few stances more and she was in great difficulty.

After several moves Li Mochou saw that Huang Rong didn't aim her attack at the baby, she thought: “Each time I fight carrying this baby seems to be an advantage." She said smilingly: “Mrs. Guo, the world is vast and there will be other occasions, why do you choose here and now to try my skills? Should you make a mistake, you will hurt this lovely child."

Huang Rong thought: “Doesn't she really know this baby is mine, or is she just pretending? I'll try her first." She said: “Thinking of this child, my first ten moves were not seriously executed, if you still want to carry that baby it's not my fault should she get hurt." With her stick she aimed at Li Mochou's right leg, the latter used her whisk to parry, before both weapons clashed Huang Rong already changed direction to the left chest. The attack threatened both Li Mochou and the baby. If it was successful, not only would Li Mochou be injured but the baby would lose its’ life.

Using the stick, Huang Rong had natural control, the stick's end neared Guo Xiang's clothes and it seemed the baby couldn't be saved. But in reality Huang Rong had perfect control on the force and reach of the stick. Li Mochou, who was very worried, surely didn't know that, she hurriedly evaded to the right, unavoidably revealing a flaw, the stick touched her left shin. Nearly tripping she took two steps before regaining her balance again. She wielded the whisk in front of her body for protection, turning around she said angrily: “Mrs. Guo, you are so famous; how can you be that cruel to a baby?"

Huang Rong, who saw Li Mochou wasn't pretending, felt great happiness and mused: “You want to protect my daughter; I'll frighten you a bit." With a faint smile she said: “Elder Li said this child  is illegitimate, why should you want to keep it alive?" With that she launched a chain of attacks all aimed at Guo Xiang. Li Mochou hopped to the left and right frantically, holding the baby tightly. The baby, who now cried loudly, was feeling uncomfortable due to the jolting  movements.  Huang  Rong  said  silently:  “My clever child, don't be startled. To rescue you, mom is forced to do this." Although in her heart she felt pity, she launched several swift and lethal attacks in the direction of Guo Xiang. Li Mochou anxiously drew back several steps lifting the whisk in front of Guo Xiang to protect her and called out: “Mrs. Guo, what do you really want?"

Huang Rong said smilingly: “In this era, the martial realm only acknowledges Elder Li and junior as the outstanding female fighters. This time we met by chance, why not use this occasion to arrange a little try out between us?"

The attacks on Guo Xiang had angered Li Mochou;  the  challenge  had  angered  her  even  more.  She thought: “If your husband was here I will probably be afraid, but we are both females, do you think I fear you?" Immediately she humphed, saying: “Mrs. Guo intends to grant me a  lesson;  that  is  what  junior always has hoped for."

Huang Rong: “If you carry a baby during the duel and I win, it won't satisfy either of us. Put it aside, and then we can move more freely."

Li Mochou thought: “Guo husband and wife are renowned for their righteousness, but judging her ferocity towards a mere baby makes me believe that fame is much too exaggerated." She looked in all directions and saw in the East several big trees with a strip of thick grass beneath. She put the baby on the grass, patted it to sooth it, turned and invited Huang Rong to begin.

After ten stances Huang Rong realized that their wugong was about the same level. If she tried now to snatch Guo Xiang away and fight the demoness, then it was probable that Guo Xiang might get hurt. If she killed the demoness first, she wouldn't have any trouble at all. This female had committed all sorts of crimes, thinking of that, Huang Rong developed a killing intent. Li Mochou thought that her adversary would stop at nothing, seeing Huang Rong often glancing at the baby, she was worried that Huang Rong would carry out a sudden, fake attack and hurt the baby instead. That's why she positioned herself between Huang Rong and the baby.

During the fight Huang Rong had thought up seven or eight stratagems, each of them would dispatch Li Mochou but unavoidably also endangered Guo Xiang. She pondered: “Looks like this demoness truly cherishes Guo Xiang. If the baby is in her hands and I couldn't snatch it for a while, it wouldn't matter much, whereas if I take risks the baby could be endangered." Suddenly she had an idea: “Elder Li, our wugong doesn't differ much, a decision would take some time. If meanwhile a wild animal appears and devours the child, wouldn't it divert our concentration? The best way is to take that little bastard's life now, and then we could fight at ease." After saying that, she bent, picked up a pebble, and with her middle finger flicked it, whizzing in the direction of Guo Xiang.

She had used the unique Huang family skill “Divine Flicking Finger” (dan zhi shen tong). Li Mochou, who knew that lethal skill, hurriedly fended off the pebble with her whisk and shouted: “What has this child done to you? Why do you repeatedly try to kill her?"

Huang Rong secretly thought this was funny, she actually flicked with a retracting force, as soon as the pebble was in the vicinity of Guo Xiang, it would fly back. Huang Rong smiled and said: “Elder Li, you certainly defend that child with all your might. People who don't know would certainly think it is...it is your..."

Li Mochou: “   is my child?” After saying that, she blushed.

Huang Rong said smilingly: “You are single, so naturally you can't have a child. I mean people would think it is your younger sister." Li Mochou humphed, thinking nothing of it. She didn't realize that the competitive Huang Rong also wouldn't want to lose even in a battle of insults. If Guo Xiang was Li Mochou's sister, then Guo Jing and Huang Rong would be Li Mochou’s parents. That's Huang Rong's hidden revenge for Li Mochou’s recent remark that Yang Guo was the father of Guo Xiang.

Li Mochou: “Let's start again!"

Huang Rong: “You are thinking about the child and can't concentrate, even if I win, it wouldn't be a fair win. I'll surround the child with thorn canes, so wild beasts can't come near her, and then we can both concentrate on the fight." Saying that, she took a golden knife from her waist to cut canes and wound them around the big trees surrounding Guo Xiang.

At first the demoness was wary but she observed that Huang Rong did it very meticulously and she thought: “In the Jianghu realm Mrs. Guo is praised as multi talented, she really lives up to that reputation." But seeing Huang Rong's face bearing a mocking smile she got scared again and shouted: “That's enough!" Huang Rong: “If you say it's enough, that's all right with me. Elder Li, you've met my father, haven't you?" Li Mochou: “Yes, I have."

Huang Rong: “Yang Guo told me you've composed a poem of four lines to ridicule my father, haven't you? It sounds like this:

'Peach Blossom Island's master, Has numerous disciples,

Five against one,

The laughing stock of the Jianghu realm!'"

Li Mochou thought: “Stupid of me not to think about that. Now I understand  that  she  hampers  me because of those four lines." She retorted coldly: “That day it was five against one, wasn't it?"

Huang Rong: “Today it's one against one; we'll see who will be the laughing stock of the Jianghu realm."

Li Mochou: “Stop being arrogant! I've seen a lot of Peach Blossom Island's wugong (martial arts), it's mediocre at the most."

Huang Rong sneered: “Not to mention the Island's wugong, I think you can't even cope with the Island's non-wugong. If you don't believe me, just try to get that child back."

Li Mochou was startled: “Has she injured the child?" Hurriedly she jumped in the cane circle following its turns, hearing the baby cry she felt relieved, but after several turns she ended up out of the circle again. She was puzzled, trying to leap in again she was not careful enough, a thorn had ripped her Taoist robe. She didn't dare to be careless again, looking where to land her feet she suddenly saw Huang Rong standing in the middle of the circle bending down to hug the child. She was shocked and immediately shouted: “Put the child down!" She deliberately tried and tried to bridge the circle to get in but ended on the outside again. The seven or eight big trees occupying an area of about several zhangs formed a maze. She saw Huang Rong putting the child down and dexterously leaping to the East and the West to leave the circle easily.

The ‘Scarlet Serpent Deity’ now remembered the fight against Yang Guo and Chen Ying with them using piled earth before the hut, preventing her from attacking them directly. Now Huang Rong probably also had used the “Eight Diagrams of the Nine Palaces Divine Method” (Jiu gong ba gua shen shu) of Tao Hua Island in arranging the cane circle. Li Mochou decided to beat the enemy first and rescue the child later. She leapt several zhangs away and was ready to fight again. When Huang Rong saw her adversary confused she secretly rejoiced but seeing Li Mochou's firm decision she also felt a kind of admiration. After successfully securing her daughter in a safe place, she attacked Li Mochou with the stance “To Push the Dog to Lower its Head” (an gou di tou). Li Mochou entangled the stick with the whisk and further attacked Huang Rong. Both had swiftly exchanged several stances.

Li Mochou changed her fighting tactics but her adversary's bamboo stick technique was really incomparable, with much effort she managed to resist about ten stances, this was already a rare feat in the martial realm. The bamboo stick was a light weapon and could by no means kill like a sharp weapon, but it managed to threaten all main 36 accupoints on the body. Li Mochou again managed to resist several stances; there was sweat on her forehead. Li Mochou put the whisk in front of her body to protect it then leapt backwards, saying: "Mrs. Guo, your Bamboo Stick Technique (zhu bang fa) is really superb, junior admits defeat. But junior has a question which needs an explanation."

Huang Rong: “Can't imagine what matter I'm able to explain to you!"

Li Mochou: “The bamboo stick technique is a unique skill of the Nine Fingered Divine Beggar, whereas Tao Hua Island’s wugong is famous in the realm, why doesn't Mrs. Guo use your own family's wugong?"

Huang Rong thought: “This person is tricky; she  isn't  able  to win  against my  stick and  tries to  provoke me." She said with a smile: “If Elder knows this stick method is Nine Fingered Divine Beggar’s, then you also know what it's called?" Li Mochou humphed but didn't reply. Huang Rong sneered: “It's called 'if you meet a dog, flog it' stick method."

Li Mochou resigned. She didn't succeed in luring Huang Rong to use her palm instead of the stick; the enemy even mocked her, using her glib tongue. Inserting the whisk on her waist she said: “Beggars use to chant the lian-hua (begging) chant, their Bang Zhu is no exception." She strode to the nearest tree and sat on a branch.

That Li Mochou admitted defeat was what Huang Rong wanted. But the demoness didn't leave and Huang Rong could guess her intention very well, she would immediately attack as soon as Huang Rong tried to get the baby. With Huang Rong holding the baby and hampered by it, their skills would even out. So, with the baby practically in her hands, she couldn't bring it safely home without killing or injuring the demoness.

Suddenly Huang Rong moved, approaching Li Mochou with three steps to the left and four steps to the right. Those steps seemed common, but they bore the intricacies of the “Eight Diagrams” (Ba-gua), in whatever direction Li Mochou would try to flee, Huang Rong could still have blocked her path, that's the purpose of the movement. Huang Rong already threatened her left elbow with the stick.

Li Mochou parried with her palm and shouted: “After Chen Xuanfeng and  Mei  Chaofeng  died,  Huang Yaoshi truly has no disciples who have inherited his skills." What Li Mochou said not only ridiculed Huang Rong for using the 'foreign' “Dog Beating Stick” method but also to try to humiliate her father as  well. Actually Huang Rong had inherited the Huang family's skill “Jade Flute Sword Method” (Yu xiao jian fa) with profound mastery, but using a sword and not a stick, she was unsure of winning against such a formidable adversary. She answered faintly smiling: “It is true that my father had unworthy disciples, they certainly can't be compared to pure and chaste apprentice sisters like Elder Li and Miss Long."

The demoness went sick with rage. Waving her sleeve, two “Soul Freezing Silver Needles” were shot, aiming at Huang Rong's lower abdomen. Although she was incomparably cruel and could kill without batting an eye, she was still a virgin. Hearing Huang Rong put her on par with her 'dishonored' apprentice sister, made her use her lethal poisoned needles.

Huang Rong, staying very close, never had a chance to dodge them. But having perfect command of the Dog Beating Stick method, she still could hurriedly fend them off with the stick. The needles flew about two inches past her face; she could faintly sniff their poisonous smell. She remembered her eagle whose foot was hit by such a needle and it took about six or seven months to cure. Meanwhile another pair of needles shot out.

Huang Rong hastily leapt up and ran towards the East, two needles whizzing near her ear. She thought: “This place is too near to Xiang’er; if she got struck by a random flying needle, it would be lethal for her." She rushed further, leaving the forest.

Li Mochou chased joyfully, she felt that with the exception of 'Da gau bang fa', her other skills were superior to that of Mrs. Guo. She shouted: “Victory or defeat hasn't been decided, why do you run away?" Huang Rong stopped, faintly smiling.

Li Mochou said reproachingly: “Mrs. Guo, do you need the stick to keep my needles away?"

Huang Rong knew that as long as she used the stick, Li Mochou wouldn't accept her defeat. She inserted the stick on her waist and chuckled: "Li dao-zhang, I've long heard about your incomparable “Five Poisons Divine Palm” (Wu du shen zhang) and how it has killed numerous people, junior wants to try out that ominous palm."

Li Mochou was rather startled: “She is aware of my fierce (li hai) palm but wants to try it." She channeled her inner force to the palm and said: “I also want to try Tao Hua Island's “Luo Ying Divine Sword Palm” (luo ying shen jian zhang)." She moved her left palm to parry Huang Rong's palm, her right palm aiming for the shoulder. Both palms moved at the same time, but the right palm also ejected two needles aiming between Huang Rong's chest and belly. This striking and simultaneously ejecting needles stance had been developed by herself after leaving Gu Mu. The adversary who only guarded against the palms wouldn't think of being attacked with the needles at such a close distance. Many wuxia experts had been killed by this move of hers.

Huang Rong retracted her left palm to parry, her right hand moving about her bosom as if she herself wanted to pull out a hidden projectile (an qi) but it was already too late, the needles were already about five inches near her ribs, even someone with a much higher ability than her wouldn't avoid being hit. Li Mochou felt up surging joy as she saw the needles penetrating the cloth. "Oh!" Huang Rong cried bending, her right hand touching her stomach, her left palm striking Li Mochou's chest. That palm really came swiftly, Li Mochou cried: “Good! She dodged and struck with both palms aiming at Huang Rong's chest. She knew the poison would instantly show its effect. So her stroke only was meant to shove Huang Rong a bit before she died of the poisoning. She saw Huang Rong's upper body only showing a slight reaction and she wondered how the poison could paralyze that quick. Her pair of palms soon touched the chest of her adversary; she felt some slight pain from being pricked. Hurriedly and in great surprise she leapt backwards, looking at her palms she saw two tiny holes, black blood oozing out, revealing she had been injured by her own needles. She was startled, angry and didn't understand how it could have happened. She saw Huang Rong taking two apples from her bosom with a smile, lifted them high, and showing a needle in each apple. Li Mochou now realized that Huang Rong hid the apples, didn't try to parry her stroke, put her hand in her bosom to hold the apples, receiving the needles and lured Li Mochou to strike the apples herself.

Li Mochou was not a stupid person, but in a duel of cunning today she had to admit defeat, she moved her hand to her bosom to take the antidote. But with a windy sound Huang Rong had attacked her face. Li Mochou hurriedly lifted her left hand to fend, suddenly Huang Rong's snow white palm opened, its five fingers, shaped gracefully like an orchid, threatened the xiao hai accupoint on her right elbow. She thought: “Is that the famous “Orchid Hand Strikes Accupoint” (lan hua fu xue shou)?” Her right hand, which had failed to take the antidote, was trying to grasp Huang Rong's hand. Huang Rong retracted her right hand, her left hand aiming at the que pen accupoint on the neck. She attacked using Luo ying palm alternately with orchid hand, her moves were not only swift and fierce but also utterly graceful. Li Mochou couldn't help thinking: “Today I have witnessed Tao Hua Island's divine techniques, it is really superb, and even if I was not poisoned I wouldn't be her match." She eagerly withdrew to take the antidote, but Huang Rong attacked again, not giving her time for it. The “Soul Freezing Silver Needle” had severe poison on it, hadn't Li Mochou been used to it, she would already have broken down. But even so, as soon as the poison had reached the pit of her stomach, it would be hopeless for her. Huang Rong observed her face getting paler, her adversary got weaker and weaker, Huang Rong thought of the demoness killing the Wu brothers' mother, at last now she would succumb to her own poison, Huang Rong pressed steadily on, but also guarded herself, fearing a last counter attempt by her adversary.

Li Mochou felt a numbness creeping up her elbow, after several stances more the numbness had reached her armpit, her arm couldn't bend anymore. She called out: “Hold a minute!" Stepping aside she said: “Mrs. Guo, since I've killed many people, I hadn't expected to live this long. In martial arts and cunning I'm inferior to you; it's fitting to die by your hands. But I must be bold and beg something of you."

Huang Rong: “Beg for what?" She guessed the demoness was trying to use delaying tactics so she watched her hands carefully; she saw her arms sagging and she then listened to her adversary saying: “I don't have an affectionate relationship with my shi mei, but her child is adorably cute, I beseech you to show a forgiving heart and not to take her young life."

Huang Rong felt the Scarlet Serpent Deity spoke with sincerity, she was unable to suppress being moved. She thought: “This demoness' misdeeds heaped up like a mountain, who would have thought that in the time of approaching death she would show such a loving concern for my daughter." She answered: “The parents of this child are no ordinary people, if I let her live she would pose a great danger to me."

Li Mochou sighed and said with a failing voice: “I understand, but I'm still hoping you would be forgiving

...."

Huang Rong was very moved, but wanted to try her further, she approached and hit an accupoint before taking a bottle out, asking: “Is this the antidote?"

Li Mochou: “Yes!”

Huang Rong: “I can't forgive two people at the same time; should I forgive you, I have to kill the baby. If you yourself choose to die, I will save the baby."

Li Mochou was totally dumbfounded. Never did she dream of getting a second chance to live, but she was unable to ask Huang Rong to kill the child, whereas to sacrifice herself in order to save the child , she

saw Huang Rong in front of her, waving a pill from the bottle, waiting for her reply. She trembled, stuttering: “I ...., I "

Huang Rong thought: “The fact alone that she is hesitating counts as a plus point for her. No matter what choice she makes, I must let her live. She has accumulated such a huge blood debt; there will certainly be someone in the future that will take revenge on her."

Thereupon she said smilingly: “Elder Li, many thanks to you for showing such a loving care for Xiang’er." Li Mochou, confused: "What?" Huang Rong chuckled: "The baby is surnamed Guo with the name Xiang, she is my and Guo Jing's daughter. Soon after her birth she fell into Miss Long hands, I don't know how you came to your misunderstanding. Because you have taken good care of her, then junior must thank you profusely."

Saying that, she bowed clasping her hands, then put a pill in Li Mochou's mouth, asking: "Is this enough?" Li Mochou answered sorrowfully: "I'm heavily poisoned, I need three pills." Huang Rong answered: "Very well", gave her two more pills, then thought that the antidote could be of some use later on, so she put the bottle in her bosom, saying: "Your accupoints would unseal in three hours time."

Huang Rong returned to the forest and thought: "Fu’er would be impatiently waiting for me, but if she sees her sister she will be very happy." Entering the cane circle her body  went  cold  like  entering  an icehouse. The cane circle looked no different but Guo Xiang was nowhere to be seen!. Huang Rong's heart beat madly, although usually very smart, she didn't know what to do.

After a while she calmed herself down and thought: "I must not worry, if a person took Xiang’er during my fight with Li Mochou, he can't be very far." She climbed up the highest tree to look off in the distance from that high place. The surrounding area of Xiangyang was flat; she saw nothing suspicious within a radius of several li. Huang Rong thought: "This person must still be in the near vicinity." Thereupon she looked carefully for traces around the cane circle but nothing was moved away. She pondered: "This cane maze is arranged according to Jiu Gong Ba Gua positions according to my own father's concept; except Tao Hua Island's [Peach Blossom Island] disciples nobody has an inkling of it. Even Jinlun Fawang (Golden Wheel Monk) with his broad knowledge couldn't solve its secrets. Has my father arrived?...Oh my god!"

She remembered her meeting with Jinlun Fawang several months ago, she had arranged a stone maze, she had explained to Yang Guo about the system, although he was not yet skilled in Jiu Gong Ba Gua, he wouldn't have difficulties solving this cane maze. Thinking of Yang Guo she couldn't help but be anxious: "Fu’er cut off his arm so he has a feud with the Guo family and now Xiang’er is in his hands; he doesn't have to kill her, he could just leave her in the wilderness and she would certainly die." Thinking about the baby, she thought of her bad luck of being taken soon after she was born, she uncontrollably shed a tear. But being very experienced, she looked again very carefully for traces around the spot but couldn't find any. She mused: "Although his qing gong is extraordinary, he must have left traces here in the mud, or could he possibly fly?"

This guess of Huang Rong was correct. Guo Xiang was taken by Yang Guo and he got into the cane maze from the air!

That day Yang Guo observed how Huang Rong hit Guo Jing's accupoint and then followed her daughter out of town. Yang Guo also followed them from afar, thinking: "Aunt Guo, your daughter owes me an arm, if your husband doesn't succeed in cutting it off, let me do it. I can see you, you can't see me; if you want to save your daughter's arm, I think that won't be easy." Huang Rong and her daughter being preoccupied didn't realize they were being followed. The meeting with Li Mochou in the small town and the fight, all were observed by Yang Guo. As the fighters left the forest, he immediately jumped up a tree, bound the end of a cane to the tree, slid into the middle of the cane circle on the cane, clamped Guo Xiang's waist with his feet, then pulled his body up again into the tree. After landing on the ground again after several tree jumps, he returned to the small town. He saw Guo Fu on the street corner, holding the reins of the hong ma (red horse) waiting impatiently for her mother. Yang Guo leapt to sit astride the red horse. Guo Fu was startled, turning she saw that the unexpected rider was Yang Guo. She unsheathed her sword, her normal sword, not Xiao Longnu’s “Lady Sword”, which she didn't like using.

Yang Guo saw her face turning pale with a frightened look, if he had wanted to cut her arm off now it would be all too easy. Somehow in the last moment he moved his right shoulder, the empty sleeve wrapped around the sword and flung it away. Guo Fu had let the sword go and it hit the corner of a wall. Yang Guo's left hand snatched the reins; clamping his legs to the horse's belly urged it to gallop away like the wind. Guo Fu slowly walked to pick up her sword; it was bent like a square.

To use soft material as a weapon was GuMu Pai's [Ancient Tomb’s] unique wugong, Li Mochou used a whisk and Dragon girl used a silk belt. Yang Guo used his strong inner energy and the sleeve had struck like a steel whip. Yang Guo, holding Guo Xiang, sped the ‘han xue bao ma’ (precious horse with sweat like blood) soon leaving the small town a couple of li behind, that's why they couldn't be detected by Huang Rong from the tree top.

Yang Guo rode speedily; he saw the trees on the roadside flying away. He looked at Guo Xiang on his bosom, seeing her tender and delicate small face, he thought: "Uncle and Aunt Guo, your youngest daughter will always be mine, think of it as a kind of compensation for my lost arm. They would feel grieved and dejected, especially because they excel me.” After a while he thought: "Why didn't I take revenge directly? Is it because Guo Fu is a beautiful young girl? If the one who cut off my arm was a male, would I also have forgiven him?" Thinking about it half a day he could only shake his head and smile wryly. He himself couldn't understand his unstable and unpredictable behavior.

After traveling two hundred li there gradually appeared houses with smoke coming from them. He got something to eat and Guo Xiang some goat milk. He decided to go to the Ancient Tomb looking for the Xiao Longnu. After several days he arrived at Mount Zhongnan. As the horse climbed the mountain and found the right path to the Ancient Tomb he pondered about past things.

The inscription 'Tomb of the Living Dead' still stood on the majestic tombstone. After Li Mochou's attack, the tomb had been sealed, if one wanted to enter, they had to use the secret entrance through the water. For him it wouldn't pose a problem but what about Guo Xiang? She would drown in the water. But the thought of soon meeting Xiao Longnu in the tomb greatly excited him. He took a pastry from his pocket, chewed a bit for Guo Xiang, and then he found a cave nearby. He put Guo Xiang in it and hid the cave mouth with thorny wood. Whether he met Xiao Longnu or not in the tomb, he planned to return and put the baby in a safer place.

Suddenly he heard the far away sound of weapons clashing coming from the direction of the Chongyang Palace. He was suspicious for a bit and then saw a buzzing silver wheel flying fiercely into the sky. That was Jinlun Fawang's weapon. Growing curious, he hurriedly followed the sound to the Chongyang Palace. During this time, Xiao Longnu was enduring Quanzhen Five Masters' "Gathering of the Big Dipper" (Qi Xing Ju Hui) and Jinlun Fawang's wheel strike, her body seriously injured. Had Yang Guo arrived earlier, he could have prevented the disaster. But how could things be as easy as one desired? Life was full of sorrow and joy, the difference between disaster and good fortune was often very small. o0o

Upon seeing Yang Guo, the Quanzhen Five Masters knew this mess was escalating. Qiu Chuji cried out: "My Chongyang Palace has been a respected place but today all of you are here to violate it. Why is that?"

Wang Chuyi was also furious, shouting: "Long Guniang [Miss Long], even though your Gu Mu sect and our Quanzhen sect share the same mountain ridge, we both stick to our own sides. What is the reason you are leading these foreign people from the West, these evil miscreants, to kill many disciples of mine?"

Xiao Longnu, badly injured, thought, these people couldn't tell right from wrong, why bother arguing with them? Their many disciples witnessed how Yin Zhiping was pierced by her sword and how Zhao Zhijing was wounded but, in this time of trouble, nobody came forward to explain the truth.

Yang Guo gently stretched his left arm to support Xiao Longnu's waist, softly saying: "Gu Gu, let us go back to Gu Mu. Don't pay attention to these people!"

Xiao Longnu then asked: "Does your arm still hurt?" Yang Guo shook his head, replying: "It's all fine."

Xiao Longnu continued: "Has the Passion Flower (Qing Hua) Poison in your body acted up again?" Yang Guo replied: "A few times, but it's nothing to worry about."

After being slashed by Xiao Longnu, Zhao Zhijing went to hide, not daring to show his face. Seeing the Quanzhen Five Masters coming out, he realized that after a series of investigation, he would be expelled from his charge and also severely punished. Originally he was only  of  a  short-tempered  and  narrow- minded nature, not really a traitorous and wicked person. Only he was considered the first at Wu Gong in the third generation disciples, yet the Zhang Jiao (leader of the generation) position fell to Yin Zhiping. His resentment festered, trapping him into his erroneous way of thinking. Quickly looking at the situation, disturbed and afraid of his five teachers, he grasped at the present opportunity. Suppose Jinlun Fawang and the Mongolian warriors wiped out the Quanzhen Five Masters, he would be able to escape forever. Also, he saw Yang Guo's right arm missing and left arm holding Xiao Longnu, looking like his hands were bound, waiting for violent death. To the betraying disciple, Yang Guo was his most hated person, now he had a good opportunity, why would he let it pass? Glancing at Lu Qingdu who was  nearby,  he  loudly shouted: "Treacherous disciple Yang Guo, your two masters are speaking to you. You don't kneel down and kowtow, how dare you to pay no attention?"

Yang Guo turned back, his eyes filled with hatred, and thought: "Gu  Gu  has  already  wounded  one Quanzhen smelly priest. Today I'll temporarily pay no mind to you. I'll deal with you later." Sweeping his empty sleeve at the crowd disgustedly while supporting Xiao Longnu, they then moved forward.

Zhao Zhijing shouted: "Fight!" He and Lu Qingdu both pulled out their swords, attacking Yang Guo's right side. Although Zhao Zhijing had been wounded earlier, the damage was not severe. His sword was thrust towards Yang Guo's missing arm to stop him from fighting back but it was held down by a strong wind, which was actually caused by Yang Guo's cultivated internal energy.

Even though Qiu Chuji didn't particularly care for Yang Guo's arrogant ways of doing as he pleased, and not honoring traditions, he thought about Guo Jing's great trust and also  his  master-disciple  bond  with Yang Guo's father, Yang Kang. He shouted: "Zhijing put down your sword. Show mercy!"

On the other side Ma Guangzuo loudly cursed: "Old fart, aren't you ashamed? Stabbing a person’s missing arm!" He and Yang Guo were very good friends. Seeing Yang Guo in danger, Ma Guangzuo rushed to help but he was a distance away so his help was too late.

There suddenly was a flashing gray shadow; Lu Qingdu's fat body flew up. He let out the Wah-Wah battle cry before a crashing sound came as the fat body hit Nimoxing. Based  on  Nimoxing's  Wu  Gong,  even though it took him by surprise, he shouldn't have been hit. Since both his legs had been removed, he used both hands to prop himself with a crutch, and was not able to push out to defend himself. He was hit immediately, and collapsed. While trying to support him self on the ground, Nimoxing's crutch  hit  Lu Qingdu in the back, knocking him out.

On this side Yang Guo's right foot stepped on Zhao Zhijing's long sword, Zhao Zhijing used his force to pull it out, his face turning bright red. Unexpectedly, the long sword wouldn't move an inch.

At the time both swords were thrusting towards him, Yang Guo's empty right sleeve fiercely brushed out, sending a rush of great force to throw Lu Qingdu to the ground. Zhao Zhijing, however, felt the sleeve abruptly sinking, caused by an "extremely heavy" body anchor. This forced the long sword down. Yang Guo stepped out with his foot, stepping on the blade of the sword. He had practiced his swordplay and anchoring technique in mountain streams and even strong current couldn't topple him. This time, when he put his foot down, it was like the weight of a mountain, how would Zhao Zhijing's force be able to pull away the sword?

Yang Guo coldly said: "Zhao Dao Shi [Priest Zhao], at the time I was with Guo Da Sha [the Chivalrous Guo] at Da Sheng Guan, you pronounced yourself my master. Today how would you be able to go on saying that? Considering that in the past I used to call you master, I'll let you off!" Saying that, without moving his right foot, the powerful force beneath it suddenly vanished without a trace.

Applying full force to pull back the sword that was suddenly released, Zhao Zhijing's hand was suddenly in the air. The sword snapped back, making a crashing sound as its handle hit his chest hard. Undoubtedly, the sword handle struck him with his own force. With this strength, if used to hit an enemy, the enemy wouldn't be able to block and must use internal force to counter the strike. Now hitting himself involuntarily with no counter-force, Zhao Zhijing felt severe pain in his chest and coughed up blood. His vision went dark, his eyes rolled upwards and he collapsed.

Wang Chuyi and Liu Chuxuan pulled their swords out from their sheaths, dividing themselves left and right to attack Yang Guo. Suddenly, a shadow dashed out, knocking the two swords out of the way. This person was of course Nimoxing. Even though he did hit Lu Qingdu, throwing him onto the ground, his mind was hateful. It was originally Yang Guo who started his troubles. Whirling his crutch and leaping forward, his left crutch struck the two swords while the right one attacked Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu.

Knowing Nimoxing's Wu Gong by heart, Yang Guo would only use his empty sleeve but then was afraid that he wouldn't be able to subdue Nimoxing in one strike. By now Xiao Longnu's body was powerless, leaning feebly against Yan Guo’s so his body slanted to the left while he was wielding his right empty sleeve. Rolling Xiao Longnu's delicate waist, he let her body lean on the right front of his chest. Then his left hand drew out the black heavy iron sword [Xuan Tie Zhong Jian] that he carried on his back. 'Pu' the sword hummed, sounding both deep and dull like a wooden stick beating leather. Nimoxing's right hand cracked and a shadow darted into the sky. It was actually his iron crutch fiercely flying upwards. This crutch was extremely heavy but unexpectedly flew up 20 feet high in the air and then dropped down behind Yu Xu Dong Shan [Cave of the Jade Void].

This was the first time Yang Guo used demonic Dugu Qiubai’s [Du Gu seeking a loss] heavy sword on an enemy. Seeing it had such power, he couldn't help being secretly startled.

Nimoxing felt half his body in pain, his right arm uncontrollably  shaking.  But  he  had  lived  an incomparably brave life so, with a roar, using his remaining crutch, pushed up ten feet in the air and came down with the left iron crutch in his palm. Yang Guo thought since he had already tried the hard strength of the sword, he would now try the supple strength. The tip of the heavy sword trembled. With his internal energy pouring out, Nimoxing would be thrown 20 or 30 feet, it would be impossible not to injure muscles and bones. Seeing Xiao Longnu severely injured, Yang Guo was filled with bitterness in his heart, deciding this time he would strike with no mercy. But just when his arm was about to release his internal force, he saw Nimoxing's body in midair with both legs cut off, fiercely reminding him of his own missing arm. He couldn't help but think that they shared the same problem so he didn't wield  his  heavy  sword  up  but pushed it down instead. The iron crutch pierced down, dust flew up, and half the crutch was stuck into the ground.

Nimoxing grasped the iron crutch, thinking to use force to pull it out but suddenly his right arm was pressed by the heavy sword. Unexpectedly his pressure point was sealed so he couldn't use any strength in the least. Yang Guo said: "Today I'll spare your life. Just hurry back to India." Nimoxing's face turned ashen. Perfectly still, he couldn't say a word.

Although Xiaoxiang Zi and Yin Kexi saw this turn of events, they didn't think Yang Guo could advance his skills in just months, thinking it had to be because Nimoxing's amputated legs were of no use. Yin Kexi rushed forward a few steps, pulling out the iron crutch and  handed  it  over  to  Nimoxing.  Having  the crutch, Nimoxing used it to prop himself up, thinking to leap far away. Who would expect that his arm was numb and limp? As soon as he tried, he collapsed with a plop.

Xiaoxiang Zi always took pleasure in others' misfortunes. As long as other people were having bad luck, regardless of whether friend or foe, he found it joyful. He thought: "This Indian dwarf has always been arrogant, not submitting to me, this is at last over. Just now you rushed out to capture Yang Guo. That was precisely what gave him a good opportunity." Then he jumped out, shouting: "Baby Yang Guo, you've wronged our Prince several times, quickly come with father!"

Yang Guo thought: "Gu Gu is heavily injured. We must hurry to go and treat her. Right now surrounded by many powerful enemies, if I don't kill anyone, it will be hard to escape." In a low voice he asked Xiao Longnu: "Are you hurting very much?"

Xiao Longnu replied: "You are holding me, I… I am very happy."

Yang Guo lifted his head up, facing Xiaoxiang Zi, and said: "Fight!" He drew out the black iron sword from between his waist, the sword tip approximately two feet from his body. He held it out steadily. Xiaoxiang Zi saw this crude black sword with a blunt tip and no edge, appearing to be a dumb piece of iron. He thought: "Sure enough, this boy's swordplay is very fast and his agile movements fluctuate but, with this iron bar, his sword skills won't be of much use." He then said: "Shit" While saying that, he wielded his steel “Melancholy Rod” to hit the heavy sword.

Yang Guo's sword stayed motionless while he channeled his inner strength into it. Only a 'puff' sound could be heard as the sword and the iron rod clashed. The “Melancholy Rod” broke immediately, sending several pieces flying. Xiaoxiang Zi cried out: "Heavenly gods!" and then scrambled backwards. Yang Guo then stretched out his sword and struck left and right, breaking both of Xiaoxiang Zi's arms.

Yang Guo had repeatedly defeated opponents, Lu Qingdu, Zhao Zhijing and Nimoxing, creating sensation among the various people in front of the Cave of the Jade Void. But this time he didn't even move his body, nor lift his arm, but simply used internal energy to break Xiaoxiang Zi's weapon, these people were even more puzzled, looking at each other in disbelief, all thinking: "This person's martial skills were really unbelievable!"

Yin Kexi was a merchant from the Western region so he knew a treasure when he saw one. Seeing Yang Guo's heavy sword sending Nimoxing's iron crutch flying, he was already secretly startled, thinking: "A sword this powerful is really not common. The blade is deep black with a hint of red glow, is it possible that it was actually forged from black iron? This black iron is the world's most precious metal. Even an ounce is very difficult to find. By adding just a little to a common sword or spear, ordinary iron would become a sharp weapon. Where did he find that much of the black iron? Also, if the sword was indeed made from the black iron, how could it not weigh 40-50 catties [1 catty = 1.1 pounds/ 500 grams]? If so, how could Yang Guo be this agile?" Actually, this sword weighed 64 catties altogether. If it was not this heavy, even though Yang Guo's internal force was strong, he still wouldn't be able to send out such power. Now Yin Kexi saw Xiaoxiang Zi's “Melancholy Rod” scattering all over the place so he was even more convinced that this sword was a divine object. Yet he still acted nonchalant. He was in the jewelry businesses, once he saw a rare treasure; his heart would be filled with delighted greed. It didn't matter if he had to buy or cheat, to rob or steal; it just had to be quick. As soon as he saw Yang Guo's heavy sword, he was burning with greed. So he jumped out immediately, shaking his Jin Long whip to grab the sword.

Yang Guo had spent time with him in the Passionless Valley [Jue Qing Gu] and saw him always laughing politely and amicably so he didn't have any hostility towards Yin Kexi. Then he saw the Jin Long whip coiling his way. This whip was heavily decorated with precious stones, diamonds and jades. He let the whip wrap around his sword and said: "Yin Xiong [Brother Yin], you and I have yet to celebrate with a drink, pull back the whip and make way. Looks like you've got quite a few jewels on your soft whip. If damaged, it would be a pity." Yin Kexi smiled and said: "Is that right?" and then applied force to snatch the sword. Yang Guo just stood still, not moving in the least.

This time Yin Kexi stood near, analyzing the situation. This sword was cast from black iron. Diamonds were the world's hardest object, and could cut anything without damaging themselves. But surprisingly the big diamond embedded at the tip of his whip couldn't scratch the black iron sword. His heart was on fire as he knew that his opponent's martial skills were ferocious. If not attacking him by surprise, it would be difficult to snatch the sword. So he said: “Yang Xiong [Brother Yang]'s Kung Fu is excellent. Congratulations! I admit defeat." While his mouth was saying these sweet words, he flicked his right wrist. Suddenly metal flashed. In his left hand was a dagger. His arm flew out fiercely to stab Xiao Longnu's chest.

He did this not because he wanted to injure  Xiao Longnu. Only he knew that Yang Guo loved her and if he saw her in danger, he would have to save her life. By creating a diversion, he would be able to snatch the precious sword. Yang Guo saw the situation, alarmed. Yin Kexi shouted: "Let go of the sword!" and sent all his body strength to the right arm, pulling the whip to seize the sword.

Hearing "Let go of the sword," Yang Guo did as he was told, sending out the sword. The sword was long while the dagger was short. The heavy sword was between the three of them so the dagger couldn't reach Xiao Longnu's body. At that time, Yang Guo was desperate so he sent out the sword with a force that was extremely fierce. Yin Kexi knew perfectly well that this sword was heavy so he had already braced himself against the force. However, he didn't expect the coming force to be this violent. Seeing that it was too late to escape, he summoned his internal energy while both hands pushed out. Then there came a crashing sound before he fell back five or six steps. He managed to stand firm and put on a smile on his face to cover his misery. Only in a short while he felt as if his internal organs had been turned inside out. He stood still, not daring to breathe or move even half a step, just like a stiff corpse.

Yang Guo walked over to him and extended his hand to retrieve his black iron sword [Xuan Tie Jian]. He lightly shook the sword, and then heard a "ding ding dong dong" sound. Under the bright sunlight, precious stones sparkled everywhere. These were the stones embedded in the Jin Long whip that had just broken into fragments.

Yang Guo called out: "Jinlun Fawang, do we settle our business today or wait for some other day?" Jinlun Fawang saw him successively defeating the three big masters, Nimoxing, Xiaoxiang Zi, and Yin Kexi, injuring each opponent in only one move. How this young man's martial skills were so high was actually quite unconceivable. If he himself stepped forward to fight, even though he would not defeated like the other three fighters, to seek victory would not be easy. At this moment all the heroes were gathering, if he walked away, how would he keep face? He thought: "Yang Guo has a missing arm. Even though his left hand is fierce, his right side is disadvantaged. I will just keep attacking his right side. He's worried about Xiao Longnu's injury. As time drags on, his mind must be restless." As a result, from his sleeve he took out the five wheels -- gold, silver, copper, steel, and lead. In his heart, he knew that this was really a moment of life or death, of honor or shame. He was not careless in the least yet his expression remained casual like he had no cares. He strolled out, smiling: "Yang Xiong Di [Brother Yang], I congratulate you as we meet again. You've obtained this powerfully divine sword! This is quite a magical weapon. I only fear this old monk also can't handle it." He still didn't have a strategy to win so he used the situation to his benefit. He heavily praised this black iron sword, leading the crowd to think that this youngster was only lucky to obtain this God-sent weapon.

Xiao Longnu leaned against Yang Guo's chest, in her dazed state seeing Jinlun Fawang holding his wheels. She thought that, depending on Yang Guo's strength alone, he wouldn't be able to beat the enemy so she said in a low voice: "Guo’er, go find me a sword, we… we… together... together use Yu Nu Su Xin swordplay “Pure Heart of the Jade Maiden Swordplay” to get rid of him." Yang Guo felt pain in his heart, softly replied: "Gu Gu, you set your mind at ease. Guo’er alone can handle this." Xiao Longnu moved to the left to shield his body as much as possible, trying to keep him out of danger. Yang Guo felt both gratitude and joy so he said out loud: "Gu Gu, today we two will fight this devil crowd together. In this life, I have no regrets." and pointed his black iron sword straight out.

Fawang didn't dare to meet Yang Guo's force directly, he jumped backwards. Immediately there came a Wu-Wu sound from a spinning lead wheel Fawang tossed out. Yang Guo lifted his sword to cut it but the lead wheel flew past his body back to Fawang, unexpectedly untouched. Then there came a loud rumbling buzzing Wu-Wu, Weng-Weng sound and flashing gold and silver lights. The five wheels flew towards him from five different directions.

For fear that he would affect Xiao Longnu's injured condition, Yang Guo stood there motionless. Fawang's five wheels were only a deceptive attack, just to try out Yang Guo's actions. The five wheels circled close to the two persons' bodies, flying back and forth repeatedly. He saw Yang Guo would certainly not lift his sword to pursue, then understood and was secretly delighted: "You don't dare to move your body, afraid that you would worsen Xiao Longnu's injured condition. The situation is bad and there is no way out. My Zong Yue Yuan attack “Vertical Jump from Distance” can not be defeated." The opponent has a missing arm and also had to protect the injured girl. According to Fawang's rank, there couldn't be a fight like this. However, he knew that a good opportunity of this kind was hard to  come  by.  If  Xiao  Longnu recovered, the two persons combined couldn't be defeated. Even if Xiao Longnu was injured to near death and Yang Guo was distracted, he himself might not necessarily be able to beat Yang Guo. He only had today to take advantage of the situation and kill them once and for all so there would be no more trouble in the future. As to whether or not it would be fair, let's not pay much attention to it.

The crowd nearby also understood the circumstance and thought Fawang had stepped over the line. Ma Guangzuo loudly shouted: "Big Monk, are you a hero or a scum?"

Fawang appeared not to hear the comment. The five wheels were continuously thrown out and then came back, still circling around Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu. Then the wheels flew high and low, straight and slanting, making both soft and loud noises. The spectators were all bedazzled and anxious.

Suddenly Ma Guangzuo loudly cried out "Ohh". This was the slanting copper wheel flying by, curving fiercely and just passing the top of his head. The wheel cut a piece out of his scalp, which still had a chunk of hair. Blood dripped profusely to the ground. Ma Guangzuo held his head with both hands, cursing, but didn't dare rush out to fight.

Yang Guo knew Xiao Longnu was severely injured. The more they were delayed, the less time for treatment there was. Anxiety filled his heart. Fawang called out: "Be careful!" Suddenly the five wheels returned again, coming side by side about to strike the two people like five powerful waves. Yang Guo's whole body strength rushed to his left arm, the tip of his sword vibrating. 'dang' 'dang' 'dang' sounds echoed as the sword brushed away the gold, copper and steel wheels. Everyone was alarmed, dust flew up, and the silver wheel and the lead wheel were broken, dropping on the ground.

Fawang cried out loudly, flying upwards. His left hand pushed aside the steel wheel while grabbing the gold and copper wheels and he then ferociously smashed down for the top of Yang Guo's head. Yang Guo didn't ward him off but the black iron sword thrust out from his chest. The sword was long while the wheels were short. The wheels were yet to smash his head but the tip of his sword was already less than half a foot away from Fawang's chest. Fawang immediately retreated. His forward attack was no doubt very fast but the retreat was also fast. It was not so clear how he cross stepped, going left and then suddenly jumping back several feet. This was actually quite rare in the martial world. The spectators were dazzled, cheering the one they were rooting for. One cried out loudly: "Good!" Yang Guo suddenly wielded the black iron sword to the back. Then came a sound, from behind and the copper wheel was chopped in half. And even before the copper wheel hit the ground, the sword whipped out horizontally and the two pieces turned into four. Although the blade of the black iron sword had no sharp point, he applied his internal energy to break the wheel. When the spectators saw Fawang's lightness Kung Fu, they shouted in appreciation. Now they saw the strange power of Yang Guo's divine sword, they all were startled, falling silent.

In just a short while, three out of five of Fawang's wheels were destroyed. Still he was not discouraged, brandishing his gold and steel wheels around without fear. Yang Guo stretched out his sword while Fawang sidestepped to evade Yang Guo's sword strikes. This time he didn't throw out his wheels. Even though he wouldn't be able to attack from afar, this was actually more powerful. When he saw Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu together, attacking on the left side and resisting on the right side, he jumped up high in the air and bore down with both wheels, sending out the Wu-Wu humming sound. Yang Guo's black iron sword did appear quite dull but no matter how Fawang changed his moves, he couldn't get within two or three steps of the couple. Forty or fifty moves passed, both Fawang's wheels returned again and were about to pound into Xiao Longnu. Yang Guo thrust out the black iron sword, and the soft clattering sound was heard as the two weapons met. Both Yang Guo and Fawang sent out their internal forces to their weapons. Both refused to budge and were now motionless in a deadlock situation.

Yang Guo could feel that the opponent's continuing waves of energy growing stronger and stronger, he was secretly alarmed: "This person's internal energy is surprisingly high." He also thought: "We're already matching internal forces and the full power of the black iron sword can't be lashed out. If this battle of internal forces goes on for a long time, the one with more profound energy would have the upper hand. If he moves his body forward further, I'll use the sleeve to strike him by surprise." As a result, his left arm was slowly pulled back. The two people were originally five feet or so apart. The distance was gradually reduced to five feet and then four and a half, from four and a half to four feet.

As Fawang's disciples Da’erba and Huo Du, who were constantly guarding their master's body nearby, saw that their master was gradually gaining the upper hand, they were delighted, moving forward several steps. While Da’erba cared about his master's safety, he also hoped that his master would not injure his reincarnated "Da Shi Xiong" [big apprentice brother]. Huo Du on the other hand was secretly plotting against Yang Guo. He wielded his folding fan, appearing to be cooling himself, but he actually was waiting for an opportunity to launch his fan attack.

As Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi saw Huo Du's eyes glinting as he moved forward, they knew that he thought to help his master. The two persons looked at the situation and thought: "Even though Yang Guo has become our sect's enemy, real men are open and upright. Losing or winning depends on the original fight. How could Mount Zhongnan allow this scheming disciple to act?" They pulled out their long swords, stepping forward and at the same time sending Huo Du a warning stare. Priest Qiu and Priest Wang's beards and hair were all white but the two had practiced martial arts for a long time; their faces had a red glow. The two swords also emitted blue-green lights like a rainbow, showing their own chilling power. Intimidated, Huo Du dare not act rashly.

By now Yang Guo's left arm gradually shrank and he was already only three feet away from Fawang. He thought: "If this monk moves forward another half foot, my right sleeve will strike him. Although it may not be enough to take his life, it will knock him out." As Fawang saw his right shoulder slightly moving, he understood what Yang Guo meant to do, thought: "Even though your arm has been cut off, you still have the shirt sleeve. If applying internal force and sending it out, it will be the same as a sharp soft whip. I'll let you do this and deflect your strike. When you wield your sleeve, the strength in your left arm must lessen and then I'll take advantage of the situation by using my full force attack and as a result your body will be heavily injured."

Xiao Longnu leaned against Yang Guo's body in a perpetually dazed state. As Yang Guo was summoning his internal energy and accelerating it, his body became hotter and hotter. Xiao Longnu felt his face emitting a steam so she opened her eyes, seeing the beads of sweat seeping out at the side of his forehead. She used her sleeve to gently wipe the sweat for him. Then she saw his serious expression, both eyes looking straight ahead so she followed his gaze and turned her head to look. She couldn't help being startled by Fawang's wide-open copper eyes in front of her. Seeing these two eyes with fierce glows, she shut her eyes quickly and then opened them again. Fawang's eyes were still near. Xiao Longnu was cuddling and leaning against her loved one. Having a pair of wicked eyes fixedly gazing at her was really disgusting. This time she didn't think that Fawang was fighting with Yang Guo. She only knew that this monk was a really evil person and also she was not willing to let him disturb her sweet time right now so she quickly dipped her hand into her bosom, took out a jade bee golden needle, and slowly extended her hand towards Fawang's left eye.

Aside from the fact that this golden needle had a virulent poison on it, any ordinary embroidery needle pricking an eyeball would blind that eye. This time Xiao Longnu only wanted to get rid of the big disgusting eyes, she didn't mean to shoot it out fiercely. With her severe injury, her stretched hand was soft and weak. Her hand was really very slow. But Fawang and Yang Guo were in a deadlock situation. In this critical stage, one who moved even a little would be paying dearly. Xiao Longnu's golden needle slowly coming near, Fawang could not resist in the least bit. Seeing the golden needle moving closer, from two feet to one foot, from one foot to half a foot, Fawang cried out loudly, pushing both wheels out to the front while struggling to flit backwards. But after all, the overwhelming force from both weapons could not be unloaded so he just firmly stood there and then sat down on the ground. Da’erba and Huo Du called out "Master!" and rushed out to hold Fawang.

Yang Guo's sword then moved twice, splitting both gold and steel wheels in half. Then he moved forward two steps, wielding his sword to cut the top of Fawang's head. Fawang just breathed in, only feeling melancholy death coming. He was weary and did not have the strength to resist. Da’erba lifted his golden rod and Huo Du raised his steel fan, together blocking the black iron sword. But the strength of the sword blow was strangely fierce. Da’erba and Huo Du's knees felt weak, unable to stop the falling sword. They knelt down on the ground but still held their weapons, desperately shielding Fawang.

As the force from the black iron sword was growing stronger, Da’erba and Huo Du felt as if their backs were about to break, their body joints rumbling. Huo Du said: "Shi Ge (older apprentice brother), you hold on alone for a moment. Little brother will save the master first and will be back to help you." Originally the two people's combined force was already unable to resist the force. Now with only Da’erba, how could he block the power of the heavy sword? But he would give up his life to protect his master so he called out: "Good!" and furiously pushed his golden rod upwards.

The two of them were speaking in Tibetan, which Yang Guo could not understand. He  only  felt  the increasing force from the golden rod and was about to apply more force to press down but then Huo Du jumped out.

Who would have thought that Huo Du didn't plan to save his master but only to seek his own retreat? He called out: "Shi Ge [Apprentice Brother], little brother will go back to Tibet and diligently practice martial skills. After ten years I will certainly look for this Yang boy and avenge you and master!" As he said that, he turned around and leapt away as if flying.

Da’erba was duped by his apprentice brother; he was unable to control his anger. He also remembered that Yang Guo was his reincarnated big apprentice brother, how could he heartlessly wrong their master like this? He loudly said: "Da Shi Ge [Big Apprentice Brother], please spare little brother's life. Wait for me to save the master and search for that scum [heart of a wolf & lung of a dog] of a disciple so I could break him into ten thousand pieces. After that I'll voluntarily throw my life into Da Shi Ge [Big Apprentice Brother]'s hand. At that time you'll kill me or cut me, little brother won't even dare to frown.”

Yang Guo listened to him mumbling a long speech, he naturally didn't understand. However, Huo Du narrowly escaped death but this person was loyal and did right by his master. He actually understood. Yang Guo saw that his expression was earnest and respected him as a true man who was not too smart. He also saw Xiao Longnu's tender eyes gazing at him. Suddenly his thought to kill and take revenge was dissipated, only feeling that it didn't matter if all the lifetime grudges were not resolved. He immediately lifted his black iron sword and said: "You are released!"

Da’erba got up, but only after a great effort. Strength escaped his whole body and he couldn't hold on to his golden rod. A 'tang' sound was heard as it dropped on the ground. He bent down and bowed to Yang Guo several times, thanking Yang Guo for not killing them. At this time, Fawang still sat motionless on the ground. Da’erba carried his master on his back and went down the mountain in big strides.

Yang Guo alone used his sword to defeat six Mongolian masters. The numerous warriors saw their six leading people either defeated or wounded, they dared not to attack. Instead they picked up Xiaoxiang Zi and Yin Kexi and quickly ran away, leaving no trace.

Ma Guangzuo, with his head still dripping blood, walked over to Yang Guo, waving fingers at him and saying: "Xiao Xiong Di [Little Apprentice Brother], you are really good!" Yang Guo said: "Ma Da Ge [Big Brother Ma], these people you run around with are not a good kind. If you mix up with them, you will definitely suffer. It would be better to say goodbye to the Mongolian prince and go back to your native land!" Ma Guangzuo said: "You are right, Xiao Xiong Di [Little Apprentice Brother]." He looked at Xiao Longnu, seeing that although heavily injured, she was still full of grace and beauty. He struggled to find sweet words, asking: "When do you and the bride get married? I'm waiting to drink your celebration wine, is that good?" When he first met Xiao Longnu at the Passionless Valley, he saw her as a bride and from then on he always called her the bride.

Yang Guo forced a smile and shook his head. He then rounded up several hundred Taoist priests. Ma Guangzuo said: "Oh, there are still these many stinky priests to be taken care of. I'll help you." Yang Guo thought: "If fighting one on one, not even one of these priests is my rival. But if they together close in on me, circumstances will be terribly dangerous. It's not worthwhile to let him die in vain with me." So he said loudly: "You'd better be off quickly. I alone can handle this." Ma Guangzuo now understood, applauding: "Right, that's right! With all those big priests, not one could defeat you. What's with all these stinky little priests? Xiao Xiong Di [Little Apprentice Brother], the bride, I'm leaving!" Dragging his copper rod and laughing merrily, he turned and left, only the sound of his copper rod bumping stones could be heard on his way down the mountain. And the sound gradually quieted.

Yang Guo propped his heavy sword on the ground. His fight with Fawang had used up a lot of his internal energy. He pondered: "Jinlun Fawang, Xiaoxiang Zi and others all worried  about  one  another  so  they fought with me one on one in the hope to get rid of each other and leaving only himself at the end. I was benefiting as a third party in a dispute. Had those six people together attacked me, it would have been very difficult to withstand. Let alone the fact that I competed with internal energy with Jinlun Fawang. I was certainly going to lose but fortunately Gu Gu [Xiao Longnu] pulled out a golden needle so I could win by luck. These Quanzhen priests' minds and bodies fight as one, all obeying their five masters’ commands. Although the Taoist group's martial skills can't match those of Fawang and others, numerous wills build a city. Their combined power really was much stronger than Fawang and the gang. Anyway, Gu Gu and I are already together here. We fight until we have no strength left, then we two will die together."

Qiu Chuji said in a clear voice: "Yang Guo, so your martial skills have reached this stage; our generation is much, much inferior. But our sect has several hundred people; do you think you can break through our blockade by yourself?”

Yang Guo looked out into the distance, seeing four swords glinting. Every seven priests formed a row, tightly encircling himself and Xiao Longnu. The priests using this "Seven  Man  Circle"  martial  skill  all united their swords and formed a first-class defense. This time the force around him was an equivalent of having tens of sword masters surrounding them from all sides.

Yang Guo had earlier disregarded life and death so he snorted and moved forward one step. Seven priests were holding their swords out to block him. Yang Guo thrust his sword  out  and  seven  swords simultaneously dashed out to counterstrike. A 'qiang' sound was  heard  as  the  seven  swords  were  all broken and the seven priests holding the rest of their broken swords were quickly leaping aside.

The power Yang Guo sent out from his sword was this incredible. Although Qiu Chuji and others had for a long time fought powerful enemies, they had never seen anything like this. Wang Chuyi called out: "Xuan Ji “Jade Pearl” formation followed by Yao Guang “Moving Light Strike!" Yang Guo thought that he would pay no attention to the Quanzhen master's big and small orders and rely on the power of sword thrusts to rush outside. He was carrying Xiao Longnu and moving two steps forward, and then he saw another seven priests circling and blocking his way so he immediately wielded his sword. This seven- priest formation did not seek to counterstrike but the priests appeared like a curtain, crisscrossing and changing their positions. He swept past them; two of them cried out -- one had an injured waist, the other a broken leg -- they collapsed on the ground.

But this time fourteen long swords were pointed at Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu's backs, seven for Yang Guo and seven for Xiao Longnu. If Yang Guo turned back to strike, he would be able to knock down the fourteen swords but Xiao Longnu would also be injured. At his slight hesitation, another seven swords pointed at Xiao Longnu's right side. At this point, he couldn't even sacrifice himself and also didn't have a way to rescue Xiao Longnu.

Qiu Chuji lifted his hand and shouted: "Hold!" The lights emitting from the twenty-one long swords glittered. Every sword pointed a few inches away from the couple, then stayed very still. Qiu Chuji said: "Long Guniang [Miss Long], Yang Guo, our respective honored founders shared a long, long history. We, the Quanzhen sect, have today won by numbers, which was not a glorious thing, and Long Guniang [Miss Long] had already been severely wounded. Wrongs should be righted by untying the problem, not by making it more complicated. You two please go. No matter who did or didn't do something, let us wipe the slate clean today."

Yang Guo and Quanzhen sect's feud was already huge. In the early years, Sun Po Po [Grandma Sun] was killed by Hao Datong, who was remorseful and willing to give up his life to make it right. This matter was also unresolved. Yang Guo came to Mount Zhongnan to search for Xiao Longnu and really didn't mean to battle with the Quanzhen sect. As he heard Qiu Chuji's speech, he was thinking: "Saving Gu Gu's life is important. If I fight with these little priests, regardless of victory or defeat, honor or disgrace, what good could come of it?" He was just about to say that he agreed, Xiao Longnu's eyes slowly scanning from left to right. In a low voice she asked: "Where's Yin Zhiping?"

Yin Zhiping's back was struck by a wheel and his chest was pierced by his sword. These were two fatal wounds, but he hadn't died yet. He was rescued by his apprentice brothers and taken to one side. His breathing was already heavy and his eyes were blurry. Then he heard a gentle voice asking: "Where's Yin Zhiping?" These four words were actually said lightly but to his ears they were like a thunder strike. Not knowing where he got the extra strength but he got up from the ground, waded through all the swords, and called out: "Long Guniang [Miss Long], I'm here!"

Xiao Longnu stared at him for a moment. Seeing his Taoist robe drenched with blood and his face ghostly pale, she couldn't help but feel her heart sinking. Her voice trembled: "Guo’er, this person has defiled me. Even if he recovers from his injuries, he still couldn't fight you. But he… but he gave up his life to save me… so you must not give him any more trouble. Such is my brutal fate." She decided that she had to say this. Even though it was in front of several hundred people, she spoke honestly out her grief.

Yin Zhiping heard her saying: "But he gave up his life to save me, you must not give him any more trouble. Such is my brutal fate." As these words went through his ears, he couldn't help feeling like his heart was being cut out. Out of his own dark desire, he had made a grave mistake. He revered her as if she was a goddess, yet he caused her a lifetime of sadness. To die a hundred times over would still not be enough to redeem him. He cried out loudly: "Master, Four Martial Elders, this disciple's sin is atrocious. You and the others cannot bother Long Guniang [Miss Long] and Yang Guo." Having said that, he jumped up and plunged into the eight or nine long swords that the priests were holding in front of him. Many swords pierced through his body, killing him instantly.

This was an unforeseen incident. Many people had not anticipated it so they couldn't help crying out in alarm. The priests heard Xiao Longnu's words. Then they saw Yin Zhiping acknowledged the crime and committing suicide. It looked like he didn't adhere to the rule and despicably disgraced Xiao Longnu. The Quanzhen Five Masters were priests who strictly adhered to the Taoist rules. Thinking about the wrongs that were done, they all felt greatly ashamed. But when it came to an apology, they found it difficult to express.

Qiu Chuji glanced at his four apprentice brothers and then shouted: "Put down the swords!" Then only the 'qiang' sound could be heard. The priests had put their swords back into their sheaths, making a pathway.

End of Chapter 27. 
@Chapter 28 – Wedding Festivities
Yang Guo wrapped his right empty sleeve around Xiao Longnu's waist to support her body and gently said: "Gu Gu, let's go!" Xiao Longnu gave him a sweet smile, softly saying: "This time I can die by your side. In my heart... in my heart I'm very happy." Then something came to her mind so she said: "Guo Da Xia [great hero Guo]'s daughter cut off your arm. She didn't mean you well. Later on who will take good care of you?" Her heart sank when she thought about this so she softly added: "You'll be lonely by yourself, you… won't have anyone to keep you company.."

Yang Guo saw her life about to extinguish, he was overwhelmed by grief. Suddenly he remembered something: "That day we were here at Mount Zhongnan, she  asked me  if  I was  willing  to make  her  my wife. At that time I was so shocked I couldn't answer and that led to many miserable and catastrophic events afterwards. We don't have much time left; I have to let her know my heartfelt feelings." So he said it out loud: "What do I care if you are my master? What do I care about a reputation? We will just do as we please and damn people if they can't take it! In life or in death, neither of us will ever be sad again, nor will we be alone and lonely. From now on, you are not my master, you are not my Gu Gu [auntie], you are my wife!"

Xiao Longnu's heart was filled with joy. She gazed at his face and softly said: "Are you really speaking from your heart? Or are you just saying sweet words to make me happy?"

Yang Guo replied: "Of course this is what I feel in my heart. My arm got chopped off and you are feeling sorrier for me than I am for myself; when you come across any hardship, I feel just the same."

Xiao Longnu softly said: "That's right. In this world, except you and me caring for each other, there's no one else."

The several hundred Taoists at Chongyang Palace were students of spiritual ways who let go their previous lives to become priests. Suddenly hearing the two people speaking tender words of love and care, they found themselves in a difficult situation – the old priests were quite embarrassed while the young ones unavoidably felt their worldly desires stirred up. They looked at each other in dismay and some couldn't help blushing. The Sage of Tranquility Sun Bu’Er shouted: "You two get out of here quickly. Chongyang Palace is a holy place, you shouldn't be here talking improperly like this!"

Yang Guo turned a deaf ear and only gazed into Xiao Longnu's eyes. Then he said: "In those years the late master Chongyang and our Gu Mu sect’s [the ancient tomb sect] Ancestor Grandma should have been married. We don't know what strange grudges broke them apart in the end. Today before him we'll bow to heaven and earth and become man and wife, letting our Ancestor Grandma vent her anger." He originally didn't think very highly of Wang Chongyang. But then he started learning from the work that Wang Chongyang left engraved at Gu Mu [the ancient tomb], and the more he practiced, the more he admired him. He even secretly felt like he was Wang Chongyang's successor in a way. Xiao Longnu let out a sigh and quietly said: "Guo’er, you are very good to me."

During those years Wang Chongyang and Lin Chaoying were deeply in love. Quanzhen's Five Masters all knew about it. They respected their master for cutting all his emotional ties with a proverbial sword like a true hero; but when they thought about how the supreme martial arts master Lin Chaoying, whose beauty was unrivalled, locked herself up inside Gu Mu for the rest of her life, they all sighed. When Yang Guo brought up this matter, the young Taoists didn't understand while the old masters trembled in their hearts.

Sun Bu’Er shouted: "Our late master had great wisdom. He let go of the secular world and started our sect, cutting himself off from all worldly pains. How could an infant like you, who was born after his time, pry into his business? If you have the gall to be this outrageous and talk rubbish again, don't blame my heartless sword!" That day at the Da Sheng Guan heroes’ banquet, Yang Guo rejected Sun Bu’Er's offered sword, embarrassing her at the scene. Even though she was a Taoist priestess, her mind was far less generous than Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and others. She was the revered elder of the Quanzhen sect and was insulted by a youngster of her disciples' generation; she naturally took it to heart. Also being a woman living and practicing Taoism with a group of male Taoists, she became even stricter. As she heard Yang Guo's declaration, determining to bow to heaven and earth [get married] before the sacred portrait of her sect's founding master, her rising anger became difficult to suppress. Now seeing the Yang-Long couple totally ignoring her words, her sword immediately came out of its sheath with a 'shua' sound.

Yang Guo gave her a cold look and thought: "You, old priestess, by yourself, are surely not my match. But if I fought with you, the rest of the Quanzhen sect couldn't just stand by. But I have to marry Gu Gu immediately. If we don't do it right now and leave the Chongyang Palace and if by chance her injuries don't heal, won't I be giving her grief at her end? You scolded me for 'being outrageous.' Humph, I, Yang Guo, will show you outrageous. I already said we would be married before the portrait of Founding Master Chongyang and I will do as I said." He scanned the area and saw only half of the Taoists holding a sword in their hands. He then said: "Sun Dao Zhang [Taoist Elder Sun], you are set on forcing us to leave, is that it?"

Sun Bu’Er sternly said: "Leave now! From now on, the ties between the Quanzhen sect and Gu Mu sect are completely severed. There will be no more connection between us for all eternity and it is best we not meet again!"

Yang Guo let out a deep sigh and shook his head. Then he turned around, walking two steps towards the small trail that led to Gu Mu and slowly putting the sword back onto his back. His right sleeve flared out while he used his left arm to support Xiao Longnu. He secretly channeled air into his abdomen. Suddenly he lifted his head towards the sky and gave out a roar so loud that it shook the tree branches in the woods. Hearing this ear-shattering roar, the Taoists were startled.

And even before he finished his roar, he let go of Xiao Longnu and leapt backwards. In a flash, his left hand sealed both ' “Returning Orthodox” (Hui Zong) and “Sustaining Waterway” (Zhi Gou) points on Sun Bu’Er's right wrist. As Xiao Longnu's body, now without support, was about to collapse, Yang Guo quickly dragged Sun Bu’Er along with him to prop Xiao Longnu's body back up. His jumping back and forth was lightning fast, like the movement of a fleeing rabbit. Before any of the Taoists had a chance to blink their eyes, Sun Bu’Er had already fallen into Yang Guo's clutches and nothing could be done about it. Qiu Chuji and Sun Bu’Er had long fought powerful enemies. In the beginning, they were guarding themselves against Yang Guo's swift attack but then they saw him put away his weapon and head out towards the small trail to the outside, with his only arm supporting Xiao Longnu. Naturally, they concluded that he'd decided to give up. They hadn't expected that he would use his roar to distract the enemy and that his actions -- using his left hand to support Xiao Longnu instead of his shirt sleeve and putting away the sword -- were actually a strategy designed to fool them so he could capture Sun Bu’Er. Numerous Taoists shouted and raised their swords. But as Sun Bu’Er was held captive, nobody dared to move forward to attack.

Yang Guo said in a low voice: "Sun Dao Zhang [Taoist Elder Sun], I have made a great social blunder. Please turn around and keep us company during the ritual." While still holding Sun Bu’Er's wrist, he slowly led Xiao Longnu to the back of the hall of the Chongyang Palace. The Taoists followed them, their faces filled with anger, yet they didn't know what else to do.

The three of them entered the hall through a side door and walked along the winding corridor until they arrived at the back of the hall. Yang Guo turned around and in a clear voice he said: "Everybody please stand outside. You may not enter the hall, not even one  step.  We've  already  decided  that  we  would sacrifice our lives. If we fight, Sun Dao Zhang [Taoist Elder Sun] and the two of us will have the same fate."

Wang Chuyi quietly said: "Qiu Shi Ge [Apprentice Brother Qiu], how do we handle this?" Qiu Chuji then replied: "Nothing for the moment, we'll wait for the right opportunity. It looks like he wouldn't dare to harm Sun Shi Mei [Apprentice Sister Sun]." These Quanzhen masters had roamed the martial world for their entire lives, their names are renowned. They hadn't expected that in their sunset years they would be controlled by a mere boy. They were undoubtedly angry but also couldn't help chuckling.

Yang Guo pulled out a prayer mat for Sun Bu’Er to sit down on and then said: "Pardon!" while sealing the "Big Spine" (Da Chui) and "Divine Hall" (Shen Tang) pressure points on her back, which left her unable to walk. As he saw the Taoists standing outside as they were told, not daring to enter, he helped Xiao Longnu stand in front of the portrait of Wang Chongyang, shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

Before their eyes was a portrait of a Taoist holding a long sword and showing a graceful disposition. He wouldn't be more than thirty years old. On the side of the portrait were three words "The Living Dead." The writing was sparse but the man in the middle of the painting exuded a heroic air, his elegance unparalled. When Yang Guo came to learn martial skills at the Chongyang Palace as a boy, he was familiar with this painting, knowing that this was a portrait of the founding master. But now he remembered quite vividly that there was also a portrait of Wang Chongyang at Gu Mu. Even though this one was a front portrait and the one at Gu Mu was a back view, the art strokes were no different so he said: "This painting was also done by our Ancestor Grandma." Xiao Longnu nodded, giving him a sweet smile and softly saying: "The two of us get married before the portrait of Master Chongyang but the picture was drawn by our Ancestor Grandma, this is really very good."

With his foot, Yang Guo placed two prayer mats side by side in front of the portrait and then said in a loud voice: "Disciple Yang Guo and the disciple named Long are here to marry in front of Founding Master Chongyang. At this place the Taoists of the Quanzhen sect all bear witness." Having said that, he knelt down on a prayer mat but saw Xiao Longnu still standing, not kneeling down, so he said: "We are bowing to heaven and earth right now, you also have to kneel down!" Xiao Longnu hesitated, her eyes red and her tears flowing. Yang Guo softly asked: "What's wrong? You don't like us to get married at this place?"

Xiao Longnu's voice broke: "No, it's not that!" She paused and then said: "I'm not pure and I'm also dying. Why should you… Why should you have to be this good to me?" Having said this, tears flooded down her cheeks.

Yang Guo got up again and used his sleeve to wipe away her tears. He smiled and said: "Why do you still not understand my heart?" Xiao Longnu lifted her head to look at him and he softly continued: "I really wish we two could live to be 100 years old so I could take good care of you and return your love and affection. But if I can't, if God should only give us one day, then for one day we'd be man and wife. Even if for only a few hours, then for a few hours we'd also be man and wife." Xiao Longnu saw the  sincere expression on his face and the infinite affection in his eyes, her heart fluttered, not quite knowing how to cherish him the way he deserved. Her sorrowful face slowly revealed a dimply smile, her tears stopped, and her expression was that of boundless joy. Then she gracefully knelt down on the prayer mat.

Yang Guo then also knelt down. The two people bowed down before the portrait and thought: "Even though our lives have been miserable, we have a time like this now - we are really most fortunate. Even if the pains of the past should cut our lives short, it wouldn't be something to worry about at all." Both of them exchanged a smile and, on the prayer mats, lowered their heads.

In a low voice Yang Guo spoke his vow: "Disciple Yang Guo and the Disciple named Long truly love each other and forever will not change. Throughout our lives, we will be husband and wife."

Xiao Longnu also said in the same tone: "May Master bless us. Throughout our lives, let us be husband and wife."

Sun Bu’Er was sitting on a prayer mat. Even though her body couldn't move, she clearly heard everything the two people said. She looked at them and then understood. Even though the two people's action was preposterous, it actually stemmed from their guileless nature. She couldn't help thinking back to the days when she was young and newly married to Ma Yu. Originally she was very angry but by the time the Yang- Long couple stood up, the expression on her face had already turned gentle.

Yang Guo thought: "This time the two of us have become man and wife. Even if I am to die right way, I have no regrets." As his original worry about the Taoists breaking in to stop them vanished, he turned to Xiao Longnu and joked: "I am a rebellious disciple of the Quanzhen sect. Throughout the martial world, they all knew about it. Now you are also a rebellious disciple."

Xiao Longnu said: "That's right. My master ordered me neither to accept a male disciple, nor to get married but I didn't comply. The many disasters that have fallen upon us were actually to pay for our crimes."

Yang Guo brightly said: "One must rebel to the end. Master Wang and our Ancestor Grandma were heroes, one hundred times greater than us, but they didn't dare to get married. If the two of them in the afterworld know, they can't say we were afraid to do it!"

Then this time there was a 'ka la' violent sound coming from the roof, tiles flying about and the rafter breaking. The force was astonishing. The roof actually cracked by the weight of a gigantic bell, which was falling straight down on the top of Sun Bu’Er's head...

As Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were boldly bowing to heaven and earth in the hall, the old and young Taoists of the Quanzhen sect couldn't suppress their anger. Liu Chuxuan pondered for a while and then came up with a plan. He bent down and whispered it into the ears of the other three masters, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and Hao Datong. The three of them nodded again and again and then said something to a disciple at the door in a low voice. Taking advantage of the situation while the Yang-Long couple was kneeling down inside, they took down a heavy copper bell from in front of the hall, which weighed over a thousand catties. The four of them together would hold the bell, fly up to the top of  the  hall, and find the right location to smash it down with great force. The bell would make a big hole in the roof before falling down to where Sun Bu’Er was sitting below. With the four masters' martial skills, even though the bell was very heavy, it would drop down with less than inches of error, trapping Sun Bu’Er inside so Yang Guo couldn't harm her. As the many Taoists closed in on him, how would the two people be able to fight them off?

Seeing the gigantic bell dropping, Yang Guo instantly understood the ploy. He immediately drew out his black iron sword and sent out with it a thundering force. A 'dang' sound echoed as the sword tip made contact with the copper bell. Even though this bell weighed a thousand catties, the force from this sword was strangely fierce and hit the side of the bell. The bell was then bumped off course by a couple of feet. If dropped, Sun Bu’Er's body would be crushed beneath.

Liu Chuxuan and the other masters who were looking down through the hole at the top of the hall realized the situation and cried out in alarm, their hearts aching. Nobody could have expected that this boy's sword would have such a divine power. They now saw with their own eyes that Sun Bu’Er would be wretchedly crushed by the large bell, with flesh and blood splattering. Liu Chuxuan shut both eyes, not daring to look, but then heard Qiu Chuji calling out: "Many thanks for your mercy!" Liu Chuxuan then opened his eyes in surprise, only to see the large bell unexpectedly covering Sun Bu’Er's body. There was no trace of crushed limbs at the side of the bell, and not even a part of her Taoist robe was seen.

As Yang Guo saw his sword pushing the bell off course, which would definitely violently kill Sun Bu’Er on the spot, he suddenly thought: "Today is our husband and wife's happy day, why bother taking someone's life? This old Taoist priestess only has a bad temperament and doesn't possess any real evil intent." Once thought, he acted. His right sleeve flared out, pushing the prayer mat that Sun Bu’Er was sitting on and sending her right under the bell.

The Liu-Qiu-Wang-Hao four masters at the top of the hall were pleasantly surprised and thought of Yang Guo as enemy no longer. But the numerous disciples below had earlier received their orders. As soon as the large bell was dropped, they were to rush in to attack. Also as they were outside, they didn't see that the bell’s supposed location was changed. Only hearing a loud noise and seeing dust flying, they all cried out and ran into the hall to attack with their long swords.

Yang Guo then put his black iron sword back onto his back. He used his arm to carry Xiao Longnu and leapt out the back of the palace hall.

Qiu Chuji called out: "Disciples, be careful. You may not take these two people's lives!" His voice was loud. Even among the noisy battle cries of hundreds of people, each person still heard it clearly. The numerous disciples ran out the back of the hall, their voices echoed: "Capture the treacherous scoundrel!" "The scoundrel violated our founding master's painting, don't let him go!" "Quick… Quick, they went out the eastern side!" "The great master ordered, don't take their lives!"

Before Liu Chuxuan jumped to the top of the hall, he had ordered twenty-one strong men to hide in the courtyard at the back of the palace hall. Yang Guo was just about to open the screen door when he saw the sword reflections in the courtyard, and knew there were men waiting to block them. He thought: "It would be better to leap out through the hole in the roof of the hall. Although there are four big masters there, those people actually won't dare kill me." He carried Xiao Longnu and quickly leapt back inside.

Xiao Longnu held on to Yang Guo's neck with both hands and softly said: "Anyway, we are now married. Our ultimate wish in this world has been granted. If we get out, it's wonderful but if we don't, it still doesn't matter."

Yang Guo said: "You are right!" Then his right leg flew up, following quickly by his left leg. A 'peng' 'peng' sound followed as two priests were kicked out of the hall. Unlike the Cave of the Jade Void area which was much wider, the palace hall was packed with the Taoist priests, who now blocked them with the “Big Dipper Formation" [Bei Dou Zhen Fa]. Yang Guo's left arm was carrying Xiao Longnu so he could only use his legs to injure the enemy and couldn't break out of the heavy encirclement. He darkly thought: "These dumb Taoist priests can't spread a complete formation. If only I had my arm free, how would you be able to stop the two of us?" Then another 'peng' sound was heard as a priest was kicked, his body flying out and crashing into two other priests.

In between this chaos, an old man with white beard and hair suddenly ran into the palace hall. Trailing behind him was a swarm of honeybees. It was the Old Urchin Zhou Botong. When he first arrived behind the palace hall, the disciples there didn't pay him any attention, but then the honeybees that followed him started to sting. These bees were not just any ordinary honeybees but indeed were the Jade Bees that Xiao Longnu kept and tamed at the Ancient Tomb. The Quanzhen Taoists who were stung immediately felt the itchy pain that was difficult to endure. Some couldn't bear it and rolled down on the ground, crying out. This of course added another commotion to the situation.

Zhou Botong was originally on his way to Xiangyang city to help Guo Jing; but then he stole Xiao Longnu's Jade Bee honey. Afraid to run into her, he decided not to go to Xiangyang but instead came to Mount Zhongnan to find Zhao Zhijing and to investigate how come he dared to plot his Martial Grandpa’s [Master of Masters] death. Along the way he played with the Jade Bee honey and mulled over ways to direct the bees. Playing with the common bees on the road was easy but once he reached Mount Zhongnan, suddenly it all became a disaster. The Jade Bees on the mountain sensed the smell of the Jade Bee honey, many of them buzzed out. Since the Jade Bees were used to Xiao Longnu's hand signals and whistles, Zhou Botong naturally couldn't direct them and also couldn't drive them away. And more than that, they wouldn't let him rest. The Old Urchin saw the situation was not very funny so he speedily ran to the Chongyang Palace, thinking to find a place to avoid the bees. It just so happened that there was also a commotion at the palace, and actually much noisier.

Seeing Xiao Longnu and Yang Guo in the palace hall, Zhou Botong was delightedly surprised. He quickly threw Xiao Longnu the Jade Bee honey and called out: "Can't soothe them anymore. I can't deal with these grandparents of bees. Good Guniang [good Miss] quickly come and save my life." Yang Guo's shirt sleeve flared out, catching the bottle. Xiao Longnu let out a small smile and stretched her hand out to take it.

By now the palace hall was filled with buzzing bees. Qiu Chuji and others jumped down to greet and kowtow to their Martial Uncle. Hao Datong shouted out: "Quickly go get torches!" Some of the many disciples were covering their faces with shirt sleeves while others were wielding their sword to strike the bees. Several went to get torches as told.

Zhou Botong paid no attention to Qiu Chuji and others. The Jade Bees had stung him twice on his forehead, which was now swollen with two big lumps. Right now he only wanted to find a secure hiding place where a bee couldn't sneak in. Seeing a large bell on the floor, his heart was filled with delight. He quickly used his energy to lift it up, only to see that there was someone inside. He didn't even look to see who that was, saying: "Excuse me. Excuse me. Let me get in." He pushed Sun Bu’Er out and let himself in. Then he released his hands and a 'teng' sound was heard as the heavy bell fell back down. He was very pleased with himself and thought: "No matter how you thousands and thousands of bees pursue, you can't sting me, the Old Urchin, anymore!"

Yang Guo said in a low voice: "You direct the bees to form a swarm then we can break out of here." Xiao Longnu was now Yang Guo's wife. Hearing his words had an authoritative tone, she felt sweetly comfortable in her heart and thought: "This is good. At last, he doesn't think of me as his master anymore but really as his wife." So she immediately said "All right!" in a soft and obedient tone. Then she lifted the honey bottle, waved it a few times, and whistled repeatedly. The Jade Bees flew back to their keeper and formed a swarm but Xiao Longnu continuously waved her hand and whistled. The large swarm of Jade Bees broke into two rows, one making way in the front and the other guarding the back, so the Yang-Long couple could find their way out.

Qiu Chuji and others were pleasantly surprised by Zhou Botong's visit and found it very funny. Seeing that the Yang-Long couple had retreated to the back of the palace hall, they ordered their disciples not to pursue. Wang Chuyi unsealed Sun Bu’Er's pressure points while Qiu Chuji went over to lift the large bell. Zhou Botong, hiding inside the bell, didn't know the situation outside. Suddenly he felt that someone outside was lifting it up, he cried out loudly: "Can't soothe them anymore!" His arms stretched out, pushing the side of the bell and shouting: "Come down!" Qiu Chuji couldn't match Zhou Botong's profound internal energy. A 'dang' sound was heard as the bell, which was already half a foot from the floor, came down once again. Qiu Chuji laughed and then said: "Zhou Shi Shu [Martial Uncle Zhou] is joking again. Come. We all will fight with him!"

So Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi, Liu Chuxuan and Hao Datong each held out a hand and pushed against the outside of the bell. Qiu Chuji shouted: "Lift!" Between the four great forces the bell was raised three feet from the floor but the underside of the bell was empty, not even a shadow inside, and nobody knew where Zhou Botong had disappeared to. The four people cried out 'Ah!" in surprise. Suddenly a shadow flashed and Zhou Botong was standing beside the bell, laughing his head off. This was because Zhou Botong had glued his hands and feet to the inside of the heavy bell so when it was lifted, people outside naturally couldn't see him.

Qiu Chuji and the others stepped forward to kowtow to him. Zhou Botong frantically waved his hand, calling out: "Enough, enough. No more kowtows, you good boys get up!" By now Qiu Chuji and the others already had white beards and hair but Zhou Botong still called them 'Good boys.'

Many people were about to start small talk when Zhou Botong caught a glimpse of Zhao Zhijing slyly sneaking off. He gave out a loud shout, jumped forward to hold him, and scolded: "You cow-nosed thief, still thinking to run away?" His left hand shot out towards the large bell and lifted it, two feet from the ground, while the right hand tossed Zhao Zhijing underneath. Then he let loose his left hand and the large bell came down, all the while repeatedly scolding: "Cow-nosed thief, cow-nosed thief." At this time in the palace hall, except for him, everybody else was a Taoist. His loud scolding "Cow-nosed thief" was the same as scolding all Wang Chongyang's disciples and followers. Qiu Chuji and the others knew their Martial Uncle's temper and did not think to disobey. They couldn't help but smile at each other.

Wang Chuyi asked: "Shi Shu [Martial Uncle], what did Zhao Zhijing do to offend the Old Master? This disciple will definitely punish him heavily."

Zhou Botong said: "Hey, hey, this little cow-nosed thief led me to steal a flag that was put in a cave but before that he hid these very big colorful most deadly poisonous spiders there,. Luckily that small Miss, hmm, where's that small Miss? Where are all the bees?” He talked without order and Wang Chuyi couldn't quite understand yet but then saw him look around trying to find Xiao Longnu.

At this time ten disciples rushed in and reported that the Yang-Long couple had retreated to the Sacred Scripture Chamber on the back side of the mountain. The following disciples didn't dare to use torches to fight off the bees for fear that they might burn the Taoist scriptures. Qiu Chuji and others were startled. The Sacred Scripture Chamber was the Quanzhen Sect's sacred place as it stored the Taoist scriptures of the past dynasties and the work of Wang Chongyang and his seven disciples. There were several secret documents of the sect hidden there. If something happened, it would be a great loss. Qiu Chuji said: "We'll go and take a look. Yang Guo has shown mercy and spared Sun Shi Mei [Apprentice Sister Sun]. We could definitely turn an enemy into a friend."

Sun Bu’Er said: "You are right!" Then everybody rushed out to the Sacred Scripture Chamber at the back of the mountain. At the door Wang Chuyi saw Zhao Zhijing trapped inside the bell, he thought: "Zhou Shi Shu’s [Martial Uncle Zhou] affairs are quite silly. This matter might not necessarily be Zhao Zhijing's fault. We'll investigate this in details when we come back." For fear that there would be no air inside the bell and Zhao Zhijing would be suffocated to death, he used his energy to lift the bell up a few inches, kicked up a brick, and placed it under the bell. He left the crack a few inches wide so air could ventilate it and then went out to catch up with other people.

In front of the sacred scripture chamber, several hundred disciples were shouting loudly but nobody dared to go upstairs. In a loud and clear voice, Qiu Chuji called out: "The Yang-Long couple, we'll let bygones be bygones. How about we stop fighting and become friends?" He waited for a while and no sound from the chamber could be heard. Qiu Chuji said again: "Long Guniang [Miss Long] has been injured. Please come out and we'll try to treat the injury together. Our sect's disciples won't dare to be disrespectful to the two of you. Qiu Chuji roamed Jiang Hu for several decades and has never broken a promise to anyone." Half a day passed and there was still no sound.

Liu Chuxuan pondered the situation and said: "They are already gone!" Qiu Chuji asked: "How?"  Liu Chuxuan said: "Look at the bees. They are flying scattered." He took a torch from one of the disciples and rushed inside the chamber.

Qiu Chuji and the others stepped into the chamber but only saw the four walls of books and not a single person. There was also that bottle of Jade Bee honey on the writing desk. As if he had found a treasure, Zhou Botong snatched it and put it away in his chest. Many people turned the chamber upside down but didn't find any books missing. They only saw a pile of books on the floor and the wooden chest that used to house them was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly Hao Datong called out: "They left from here!" The people followed Hao Datong's voice to the window in the back of the chamber and saw a rope tied to a wooden pole, with its other end tied to a tree on the cliff on the opposite side. Between the Sacred Scripture Chamber and the cliff was a deep ravine, with no way to pass through it. They didn't expect that Yang Guo would actually have such lightness Kung Fu and could carry Xiao Longnu and also across the valley on a rope.

As Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu bowed to heaven and earth at the Chongyang Palace, everybody in the Quanzhen sect felt badly violated. But this time seeing how the two people had retreated, the Quanzhen Five Masters smiled at one another and actually turned soft in their hearts. Sun Bu’Er was originally the most resentful but at the palace hall she witnessed how the two of them were idealistic and sincere. On top of that, Yang Guo had spared her own life at a critical moment. She couldn't help feeling a loss and fell silent.

The Quanzhen five masters and Zhou Botong went back to the palace hall and inquired about the Mongolian Prince's imperial decrees, the fights of the two disciples Zhao and Yin, Xiao Longnu's sudden attack, and so on. They went over each report one by one. With tears in his eyes, Qiu Chuji said: "Zhibing's disgracing someone was truly abominable but he did defend our sect with loyalty and patriotism, pledging to fight to death rather than surrendering to the Mongols. That has great merit."

Wang Chuyi said: "Zhibing naturally had flaws but he also tried to uphold justice. We should still recognize him as a Zhang Jiao [Jiao chief]." Liu Chuxuan, Hao Datong, and others also agreed.

Qiu Chuji said again: "If it was not for Long Guniang [Miss Long] arriving in time to block the enemy, our sect would have been annihilated. Long Guniang is really our sect's great benefactor. From now on we not only cannot be disrespectful to them as husband and wife, we would also have to repay the debt of gratitude. Ai, we did injure her, not knowing… not knowing…" Thinking about how Xiao Longnu was heavily injured, he deeply blamed himself.

Qiu Chuji and the others were busy investigating the past events and cleaning up damage while Zhou Botong didn't pay attention to these matters in the slightest, he was playing with that bottle of Jade Bee honey in his hand. Several times he thought about opening the bottle to tempt the bees but always feared the outcome, and of not being able to get away. At this time a disciple stepped in and reported that five disciples were stung by the Jade Bees and that their itchy pains were difficult to endure and so asked the master to help. Hao Datong thought about the year Sun Po Po (Grandma Sun) broke into the palace to give them the honey so he said: "Long Guniang [Miss Long] must have left this bottle of Jade Bee honey for us to treat the injured. Shi Shu [Martial Uncle], please give the Jade Bee honey to the five disciples, and let them take a little."

Zhou Botong stretched out both hands and his palms were empty. He  said,  "Don't  know  how  but  I suddenly can't find it." Hao Datong had obviously seen him playing with the  bottle  in  his  hand  so  it couldn't possibly be suddenly missing. He decided that Zhou Botong was not willing to hand it over but Zhou Botong was an elder so it was not very convenient to say much.

He couldn't help but feel awkward. Zhou Botong then gave his sleeves a brush and patted his body several times. He said, "I didn't hide it. Don't suspect me being so mean that I don't want to give it to you. Do you want me to take of all my clothes for you to take a good look?" Zhou Botong had always been naughty and only wanted to play, not distinguishing between big, small or urgent matters, and this didn't change with old age. In his mind, these little cow noses [Taoists] were stung by the bees. At most they would be in immense pain for half a day so it was hardly a life or death worry.

This bottle of Jade Bee honey couldn't be given to anyone. Then he heard Hao Datong speaking so he passed the bottle up his shirt sleeve and let it slide down from his chest to his belly. He shrank his belly a bit so the bottle could go down his pants and from there the bottle slowly dropped to his foot and gently fell down to the floor. His internal energy was so profound that the muscles in his whole body could all be manipulated. That small bottle was sent to the floor and surprisingly didn't even make a sound.

Wang Chuyi thought, "Martial Uncle didn't want to hand over the bottle but only wanted to play with people. If I say something, there is no way I could change his mind. I  should  just  take  care  of  other business first and when his temper is improved, I will get the bottle from him. For now let's heavily punish the treacherous disciple Zhijing. If not for Zhao Zhibing's willingness to die rather than to  surrender, wouldn't our sect's long-built reputation  have  already  been  destroyed  by  this  treacherous  disciple's hand?" Having thought this, he said out loud, "Hao Shi Di [Apprentice Brother Hao], it won't hurt if we postpone the matter of treating the injured. We must quickly deal with this treacherous disciple Zhijing first!"

The Quanzhen five masters were apprentice brothers for several decades so they all knew about Wang Chuyi's straight and unselfish character. Even though Zhijing was his Taoist disciple, he had committed an atrocious crime. Wang Chuyi wouldn't think to protect him. Everybody thought, "This perfidious disciple sold out his sect for personal glory and harmed his own sect brothers in the process. He cannot be forgiven."

Suddenly they heard a faint sound coming from under the bell, "Martial Grandpa Zhou, if you save my life, I'll give you the bee honey; otherwise I'll just eat it all before I die!" Zhou Botong was alarmed and quickly moved forward a step. Sure enough that bottle of Jade Bee honey was gone without a trace. Zhou Botong had earlier stood by the bell, with Zhao Zhijing beneath it. That small bottle happened to fall right in front of him. Upon hearing that Hao Datong couldn't get the Jade Bee honey from Zhou Botong, he immediately stretched out his hand through the crack and grabbed it.

Now he used this small bottle to bargain for his life. He himself knew that this attempt could be in vain but he was desperate and therefore must fight for his life to the bitter end. As Zhou Botong heard Zhao Zhijing's words, he was extremely worried and cried out, "Hey, hey, you definitely can't eat the bee honey. Wait, let's talk about it."

Zhao Zhijing then replied: "Then you must agree to save my life."

The Quanzhen five masters were startled, fearing that if this Martial Uncle were to agree to this demand, they wouldn't be able to punish Zhao Zhijing. Qiu Chuji hurriedly said, "Shi  Shu  [Martial  Uncle],  this person has committed a really heinous crime, we cannot spare him no matter what."

Zhou Botong crouched down on the ground and spoke into the bell, "Hey, hey, you definitely cannot eat the bee honey!"

Liu Chuxuan then added, "Shi Shu [Martial Uncle], pay him no mind! If you want the bee honey, it's really not difficult. Today we've already explained and settled the animosity with Long Guniang. We can now go to Gu Mu and ask her for several bottles. Long Guniang has already given you the first one so giving you another ten is really not a problem!"

Zhou Botong then shook his head and said, "Maybe not, maybe not!" In his mind he thought, "Do you think she gave me this bottle of the bee honey? It was me who stole it. She left the Sacred Scripture Chamber in a hurry so she didn't take it with her. If I asked her again to give me the honey, she might not agree. And even if she did agree, I'd still have to let you take it away to cure people, how would there be anything left for me in the end?"

Then he heard the gentle hum of five or six Jade Bees that flew into the hall from the courtyard through the hole in the roof. The hall doors were closed so the bees hit the window and couldn't find their way out. Zhou Botong came up with an idea and said, "Zhao Zhijing, I'm afraid what you took isn't the Jade Bee honey."

Zhao Zhijing hurriedly replied, "Yes, yes, it is. Why shouldn't it be?"

Zhou Botong then said, "Good, you open the bottle and let me smell it first. If it isn't the bee honey, there's no need to talk any more nonsense."

Zhao Zhijing quickly opened the bottle and said, "You smell it, isn't it the bee honey?"

Zhou Botong deeply inhaled the air and said, "Hmm, Hmm, it doesn't smell like it. Let me sniff again a few more times." Zhao Zhijing clasped both hands tightly over the bottle for fear that Zhou Botong would lift the bell up and snatch it from him. At the same time he said, "You sniff this sweet scent, sniff this sweet scent!" The scent of the Jade Bee honey was incomparably sweet. As soon as the bottle was opened, the palace hall was filled with the strong fragrance.

Zhou Botong sneezed and laughed. He said, "I've got a cold and my nose is not very effective!" and at the same time turned to Qiu Chuji, giving him a wink.

Zhao Zhijing also guessed right that Zhou Botong was using a delaying tactic so he said: "If you even touch the bell, I will eat all the bee honey." But by this time, several Jade Bees had already sensed the honey smell and flew to the bell.

Zhou Botong wielded his sleeves and shouted, "Go in and sting him!" The Jade Bees of course didn't listen to Zhou Botong but the scent coming out from beneath the bell was growing more and more intense. With zeng-zeng hums, they all buzzed in through the crack at the bottom of the bell.

The people then heard Zhao Zhijing's frantic shouts. With the poignant smell of the honey, a Jade Bee flew in and stung him, causing the bottle to drop and shatter. Zhou Botong went mad and shouted, "Stinky Cow nose [Taoist], why couldn't you hold the bottle firmly?" As he was about to go lift up the bell more Jade Bees from the courtyard crazily buzzed into the bell. Zhou Botong had suffered the Jade Bee stings so he didn't dare to get near. He saw numerous bees filling the large space inside the bell. Zhao Zhijing's body was covered with the sticky syrup and no matter how he moved his hands or his head, he couldn't avoid the bees and got stung who-know-how-many hundred times all over his body. The people  heard  him shouting out crazily for a moment and then came an eerie silence. He must  have  died  from  the  great amount of poison.

Zhou Botong then grabbed Liu Chuxuan's robe and said: "Good, Chuxuan, now you go ask Long Guniang to give me many, many bottles of the bee honey." Liu Chuxuan frowned, feeling quite miserable. Earlier he tried to stop Zhou Botong from being rash and agreeing to Zhao Zhijing's demand so he spoke out quite carelessly. As a matter of fact, the Quanzhen Five Masters had used the “Big Dipper Formation” and all their combined forces to injure Xiao Longnu. It was still not certain that she would ever recover, how could it be "animosity explained and settled" four words as he said? Right now Zhou Botong was holding his chest so he could only let out a painful smile and said: "Don't worry, Shi Shu [Martial Uncle], Chuxuan is leaving!" Then he turned towards the back of the mountain and walked to Gu Mu.

Qiu Chuji and others knew that this matter was indeed deadly. If Xiao Longnu was alright, everything would be fine. But if she died from the severe injury, nobody knew how many Quanzhen disciples would be killed by Yang Guo's hand. Everybody then said in one voice: "Let us all go together."

The woods outside Gu Mu was the area Wang Chongyang himself had forbidden his disciples to go, not even one step. Many people heeded their late master's instruction so  they  stopped  at  the  edge  of  the woods. Qiu Chuji summoned air into his abdomen and clearly announced: "Yang Xiao Xia [Young Hero Yang], is Long Guniang’s injury alright? Here we've got several wonder pills to treat the injury. Please come out and take them." Zhou Botong said in a low voice: "Yes, Yes! I want the bee honey. Come out and trade for them!" Half a day passed and still there was no reply. After Qiu Chuji used his energy to call the couple, the woods fell into a bleak silence. He looked into  the  woods  but  only  saw  the  shady  clouds circling around, all the tree branches above, and thorny bushes below.

Liu Chuxuan and Hao Datong walked along the edge of the woods but saw no  sign  of  people  passing through the area. It looked like Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu didn't come back to Gu Mu but went away from Mount Zhongnan. They felt both happy and worried at the same time and decided to return to the Chongyang Palace. The Quanzhen people were glad that the Yang-Long couple had gone far  away  but worried that if Xiao Longnu didn't recover, the sect would have big trouble ahead. On the other hand, the Old Urchin Zhou Botong was worried that he wouldn't get the Jade Bee honey but also quite happy that he didn't have to meet Xiao Longnu and could avoid exposing his crime of stealing the bee honey in the first place.

o0o

Even though the Quanzhen Five Masters had lived on Mount Zhongnan for several decades, they couldn't have guessed how Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu came back to Gu Mu.

Shielded by the Jade Bees, the Yang-Long couple rushed to the back of the courtyard and then saw a small building on the side of the mountain. Yang Guo knew it was the Sacred Scripture Chamber of the Chongyang Palace so he carried Xiao Longnu inside. They let out a gasp of air and then heard the sounds of many people shouting. Dozens of Taoists were pursuing them but they were afraid of the Jade Bees and dared not come too close.

Yang Guo settled Xiao Longnu in a chair, looked around, and contemplated the situation. Then he saw that in the back of the Sacred Scripture Chamber was a mountain creek which was 30 to 40 feet below. Even though the gorge was deep, the good thing was that it wasn't too wide. On the side of his body, he always carried a long rope for tying between two big trees to make a bed. Now he tied one end to a pillar of the Sacred Scripture Chamber and then leapt down while pulling the rope. He swam across the mountain stream and then straightened the rope. He then tied its other end to a big tree before using his lightness Kung Fu to walk on the rope back to the chamber.

When he was back at Xiao Longnu's side, he softly asked her, "Shall we go over there?" Xiao Longnu said, "You said we should go there; then I'd go there with you."

Yang Guo laughed and said, "That is called "Marry a chicken, act like a chicken; marry a dog, act like a dog!" [Chinese saying: A woman must follow and comply with her husband's wishes]. Then he paused and asked again, "In your heart, do you really want to go over there?" Xiao Longnu let out a gentle sigh and her facial expression changed. Yang Guo knew she most wanted to go home to Gu Mu but they could only get inside at great expense. While hesitating, they heard the shouting from outside the chamber and knew that they couldn't delay getting out of there much longer.

While he could read her mind, Xiao Longnu also understood him just as well. So she softly said, "I don't really have to go back to Gu Mu. You don't have to worry about me." Then she smiled, "As long as I can be with you, any place is just as good."

Yang Guo now thought, "This is her first wish after we got married and it might be her last wish in life as well. If I couldn't do this for her, how would I deserve to be her husband?" He looked in all directions. Hearing the sounds of people outside, his heart was in chaos. Then towards the west side of the chamber he caught a glimpse of a wooden trunk stacked on a bookshelf. His heart leapt and he said, "That’s it!" He rushed there and saw that the trunk had a copper lock on it. He ripped it apart and opened the lid. The inside of the trunk was filled with books so he lifted up the trunk and turned it upside down, sending the books down on the floor. The trunk itself was made from Camphor wood about an inch thick and was very sturdy. Then he traced his hand along the shelves and found an oilcloth that was used to protect the precious books from rain leaks. He put two pieces of large oilcloth inside the trunk and then, with a rope, dropped the trunk down to the mountain creek below. He came back to carry Xiao Longnu and said with a smile, "Let us go home."

Xiao Longnu was very happy and smiled back. She said, "Your ideas are really good."

Yang Guo was afraid that she would worry so to comfort her he said, "This sword is very powerful. If a mountain rock blocks the trunk under the water, the sword will cut it open. I'll go fast; you, inside the box, don't have to worry."

Xiao Longnu smiled and said; "Only one thing is not good." Yang Guo was startled and said, "What is it?"

Xiao Longnu then replied, "I won't be able to see you for a while."

Down at the mountain creek, Yang Guo remembered that he left Guo Xiang in the cave so he said, "We'll bring Uncle Guo's girl with us too, what do you say?"

Xiao Longnu was stunned and so her voice trembled as she said, "Really? You've brought Hero Guo…Hero Guo's daughter?"

Yang Guo saw her changed expression, immediately realizing that she thought he'd brought Guo Fu with him. He bent down and gently kissed her face, softly saying, "It is that month-old baby. She can't cut off anyone's arm!" This time Xiao Longnu blushed profusely and hid her face in Yang Guo's embrace, not daring to lift up her head.

After a while, she softly said, "We'd better go bring her back to the tomb with us. On a wild mountain like this, leaving her for another while could cost her small life."

Yang Guo then thought about how they were delayed at the Chongyang Palace until now, not knowing how Guo Xiang was doing in the cave. Frightened, he immediately put Xiao Longnu in the trunk, carried it on his shoulder, and rushed out. As they reached the front of the cave but still didn't hear any crying sound, he got even more worried. He pulled out the thorns that he earlier piled in front of the cave entrance and saw that Guo Xiang was sleeping comfortably, her cheeks still red like they were painted with rouge. The two were overjoyed. Xiao Longnu stretched out her hand and said "Let me carry her." Yang Guo put Guo Xiang in her embrace and then put the wooden trunk back on his shoulder again.

By this time all the Taoists were gathering at the Chongyang Palace so they didn't run into anybody along the way. Passing a pumpkin field, Yang Guo picked six or seven pumpkins that the Taoists grew. He put them in the trunk and laughingly said, "This will be enough for us to eat for a week." And after a short while, they reached the bank of the mountain creek. He lowered his head to kiss Xiao Longnu's cheek and gently closed the trunk lid. He then wrapped it tightly with the two pieces of oilcloth. After putting the trunk under water, he breathed in deeply and dove away with the trunk behind him.

He had trained his internal power in a wild mountain flood so diving to the bottom of this small mountain creek didn't strain him in the least. The bottom of the creek was rugged with high and low terrain. There were muddy rocks blocking the waterway so the wooden trunk couldn't easily pass through. Yang Guo used his sword to hack them apart and make way. Afraid that Xiao Longnu would be suffocated inside the trunk, he went as fast as he could. In only minutes, they emerged from water, arriving at the underground tunnel below Gu Mu.

He pulled off the oilcloth and opened the trunk lid. Xiao Longnu was in a dazed state as a result of her heavy injury. Guo Xiang let out a loud healthy cry. She had been feeding on leopard's milk for over a month so she was actually very strong and healthy. Xiao Longnu smiled faintly and softly said, "We are finally home!" She couldn't support herself by this time so she closed her eyes. Yang Guo didn't lift her body up but took the whole wooden trunk back to the living quarter inside Gu Mu.

Inside, the tables and chairs were overturned and the beds were crooked. This was the result of that day's evil fight with Li Mochou and her disciple before they departed. Yang Guo looked at the stone chamber and the many things he'd used since he was small; his heart felt something beyond description, a mix of happiness and pain. He was expressionless for a moment. Suddenly he felt a drop of water on the back of his hand so he turned his head and saw Xiao Longnu, supporting herself with a chair, standing there with tears slowly flowing from her eyes.

Today the couple had started their family. They finally fulfilled their long time wish and returned home. From now to the afterlife, the bitterness, agony, and worry were all gone but deep down in their hearts they couldn't restrain their sorrow. The two people both knew that Xiao Longnu was seriously injured. With the injuries from both Fawang's golden wheel and the Quanzhen Five Masters' strike, how would her delicate body be able to endure?

In their young lives, the two people had always been lonely and miserable and never really experienced true happiness. Suddenly they came to realize their biggest wish and then immediately had to say good- bye!

Yang Guo stayed expressionless for a long time. Then he went into Sun Po Po [Grandma Sun]'s bedroom and arranged the bedding on the chilled jade bed. Then he helped Xiao Longnu up so she could rest comfortably. All the old food that was stored at Gu Mu had long ago spoiled but the Jade Bee honey at the altar indeed could not go bad. He poured out half a cup of the syrup and mixed it with fresh water. He fed it to Xiao Longnu and baby Guo Xiang. Then he himself drank a bowl of it.

Then he thought, "I've got to lift up my spirits to make her happy. Even my heart is filled with grief and sorrow; I can't let it show on my face." Having thought that, he went to look for two of the thickest candles and wrapped them with red cloth. He put them on a table and said with a smile, "This is our wedding party!"

With the two red candles, the stone chamber immediately became festive. Xiao Longnu was sitting on the bed. When she saw her own body stained with blood and dirt, she said with a small smile, "I look terrible like this, how would I resemble a bride!" Then she suddenly remembered  something  and  said,  "Guo’er, could you please go to Ancestor Grandma's bedroom and bring me that gold work box?"

Even though Yang Guo had lived inside Gu Mu for several years, he never dared enter Lin Chaoying's room or played with her stuff. This time he heard Xiao Longnu speaking to him like this, he said with a laugh, "You have to be this polite when you talk to your husband." He walked over to the headboard of the bed where several boxes were stacked and lifted out the one at the bottom. This box was really not heavy and had no lock. The outside work was red and gold with an exquisite design.

Xiao Longnu said, "Sun Po Po [Grandma Sun] told me that stored in this box were Ancestor Grandma's wedding items. She didn't get married and so these things didn't get used."

"Hmm," Yang Guo groaned. He looked at this beautifully designed box but felt that amid happiness always was infinite misery. He put down the box on top of the chilled jade bed and opened the lid to see that lying inside were a pearl-inlaid Phoenix crown, a red robe embroidered in gold and female clothing made from red satin. All the items were made from the best materials and even though they had been in the box for several decades, they still looked like new. Xiao Longnu said, "Take them out and let me take a look."

Yang Guo took each item out of the box. Underneath the clothing were a small vanity box inlaid with pearl and gold and a carved jade jewelry box. There was rouge powder and half a bottle of scented oil inside the vanity box. And as soon as the jewelry box was opened, the two of them were wide-eyed, seeing a pearl hairpin, jade bracelets, and gemmed earrings. All items were exquisite, flashing and sparkling. The Yang- Long couple had rarely seen gem stones before so they didn't know how precious these adorning items were. They only saw the elegant inlay work and beautiful design, indicating that these pieces had been created with the most painstaking efforts.

Xiao Longnu said with a smile, "Should I dress up as a bride?" Yang Guo then replied, "Today you are exhausted. You should rest first and tomorrow you can dress up." Xiao Longnu shook her head, saying, "No, today is the day we got married. I love being a bride. On that day at the Passionless Valley, that Gongsun person wanted to marry me, I didn't get dressed up!"

Yang Guo said with a laugh, "You called that getting married? That was the senile Gongsun's delusion!"

Xiao Longnu picked up the rouge and the honey water. She looked into the mirror, planning to dress up. In her entire life, this would be the first time she put cosmetic powder on her face. Her facial complexion was originally pale and really didn't need any cosmetics. But this time she was seriously injured and had no color left on her face. She lightly smeared rouge on both cheeks and it added to her beauty tremendously. She paused for a while and then picked up a comb to work on her hair. Then she sighed and said, "I have to make a hair bun but I can't do it. Guo’er, can you do it?"

Yang Guo then said, "No, I can't either! Without it, you are even more beautiful."

Xiao Longnu said with a smile, "Really?" and laid down the comb. She inserted the hairpin and put on the earrings and the jade bracelets on both wrists. Under the red candlelight, her beauty was unparalleled. She was overjoyed as she turned around, wanting to hear praise from Yang Guo.

As soon as she turned her head, she saw Yang Guo's tears streaming down his face. He was overwhelmed by grief. Xiao Longnu gritted her teeth and pretended not to see him crying. With a smile she said, "Would you say I look good?"

With a choking sound, Yang Guo replied, "Most beautiful! Let me bring you the Phoenix crown!" He lifted the crown up and walked over to put it on for her from behind. In the mirror, Xiao Longnu saw him lifting his sleeve to wipe away his tears. When he faced her again, his face appeared to be joyful. He then said with a smile, "Later, should I call you 'Niang Zi'[Madame] or should I still call you 'Gu Gu'?"

In her heart, Xiao Longnu thought, "Why 'later'? Is that to say the two of us still have a 'later'?" But she put on her happiest expression and laughingly said, "Calling me Gu Gu again is definitely not good. As for calling me 'Madame,' that sounds like an old lady!"

Yang Guo then said, "What were you called when you were a child? Today you can let me hear it." Xiao Longnu replied, "I don't have a childhood name. Master just called me Long’er."

Yang Guo said: "Alright, then you call me Guo’er and I will call you Long’er. The two of us are equal and no one gets the worst of it. Wait till we have a baby, we will say: hey, baby's father! And hey, baby's mother! And when the baby is grown and gets married "

Hearing him talking nonsense like this, Xiao Longnu could no longer grit her teeth to smile. Finally, her resistance broke and she let out a sobbing sound. She bent down on the box and started crying. Yang Guo scrambled forward and brought her into his arm. He softly said, "Long’er, you are not well, I'm also not well. There's no need to pay attention to whatever will happen in the future. Today you are not dead. I'm also not dead. The two of us should be very happy now. Nobody is allowed to think about tomorrow." Xiao Longnu lifted her head and smiled with tears in her eyes. Then she nodded.

Yang Guo said, "Look at this beautiful dress with a Phoenix design, I'll help you put it on!" He supported her body and put on the dress embroidered in red and gold for her. Xiao Longnu's tears dried up and she repaired her rouge make-up while sitting by the red candles with a smile.

At this time baby Guo Xiang was sleeping by the head of the bed. Then she opened her small eyes with great curiosity. It seemed like in her tiny heart she felt that the dressed up Xiao Longnu was really very pretty.

Xiao Longnu said, "I've dressed up nicely. It's a pity there is no bridegroom's outfit in the trunk. You must feel slightly out of place."

Yang Guo then said "Let me take a look again. It seems like there are some more pretty items in there." As he said that, he moved various scattered items out of the trunk and put them on the bed. Xiao Longnu saw him taking out a gold flower so she stuck it into his hair. Yang Guo said with a smile, "Not bad, there is a little more." Then he looked at the bottom of the trunk and found a pack of letters bound by a red ribbon. The ribbon color already faded and the envelopes were so old they turned deep yellow. Yang Guo picked them up and said, "There are letters in here."

Xiao Longnu said, "Let's see what kind of letters they are."

Yang Guo then untied the ribbon and saw that on the envelopes was written "To be opened only by Miss Lin Chaoying" and that there were the words 'Ji Ji' on the left corner. All the twenty letters were addressed in the same way. Yang Guo knew that Wang Chongyang's given name before becoming a Taoist was Wang 'Ji Ji' so he laughed and said, "These are love letters Founding Master Chongyang wrote to our Ancestor Grandma. Can we read them?"

Since childhood, Xiao Longnu had revered her Ancestor Grandma as if she was a divine being so she quickly said, "No, we cannot read!"

Still smiling, Yang Guo tied up the bunch of letters with the ribbon and said, "Old sister Sun and the others were so old-fashioned. Seeing us bowing to heaven and earth before Founding Master Chongyang's portrait, they all got upset and accused us of committing a blasphemy. I didn't believe for a minute that in those years Master Chongyang and our Ancestor Grandma didn't have a relationship.  If  we  took  these letters there for them to take a look, those old cow noses' reactions would be quite interesting." While saying that, he was looking at Xiao Longnu and couldn't help feeling sorry for Lin Chaoying. He thought, "Ancestor Grandma lived alone inside Gu Mu. She must have more than once tried on the wedding dress. The two of us are much luckier than she was."

Then Xiao Longnu said, "That’s right, we are more fortunate than Ancestor Grandma. Why should you still be unhappy?"

Yang Guo said, "All right!" Suddenly he was startled and said with a laugh, "I didn't say it but you really could guess what I was thinking."

Xiao Longnu curved her lips into a smile and retorted, "If I didn't know what you were thinking, how would I deserve to be your wife?" Yang Guo sat down on the side of the bed and gently extended his left arm to hug her. In their hearts, the two of them were happy beyond words and hoped that a moment like this would last forever. They sat there in each other's embrace and, for a long time, nobody said a word.

After a while, they both eyed that bunch of letters. And when they looked at each other, they laughed with mischievous glints in their eyes. Knowing perfectly well that they shouldn't read their deceased master's personal letters but, of course, they couldn't bear the curiosity in their hearts.

Yang Guo said, "We'll just read one letter. Is that alright? We definitely won't read more." With a smile Xiao Longnu said, "I want to read too. So, okay, we'll just read one." Delighted, Yang Guo reached out to get the letters and untied the ribbon. Xiao Longnu added, "But if the letter is filled with heartaches, you don't have to read it out loud to me." Yang Guo paused slightly and then said, "All right!" But in his heart he knew that the relationship between the Wang-Lin couple didn't end  well  and  was  afraid  that  there would be more misery than happiness in the letters. In that case, it would be better not to read them. Then Xiao Longnu said, "You don't have to worry about it beforehand. Perhaps there are only convoluted speeches in there."

Yang Guo picked up the first letter and read, "Dear Ying Mei [Sister Ying]: The other day my division and the enemy crossed swords at the Hill of the Evil Storm. We were ambushed and suffered a small loss. Four hundred men " As he read on, the letter was filled with the story of the battles between his army and

the Jin. He looked through several other letters, they all talked  about  military  affairs  and  there  was nothing on personal relationships.

Yang Guo sighed and said, "Founding Master Chongyang was indeed a real Han hero. His whole heart was devoted to defending the country and since this was the case, our Ancestor Grandma couldn't be blamed for being estranged." Xiao Longnu said, "No, Ancestor Grandma was very delighted to receive these letters." Puzzled, Yang Guo asked, "How do you know?" Xiao Longnu said, "Of course I don't know. I can only guess what went on inside her mind. You see, every single letter talked about how very urgent and difficult those battle situations were but master Chongyang, even in distress, still didn't forget to write to our Ancestor Grandma. Wouldn't you say she was always on his mind?" Yang Guo nodded and said, "Yes, it was indeed so." And then he picked up the letter again.

That letter described a desperate situation. Wang Chongyang's army was overwhelmed by many enemies and they were repeatedly defeated with little hope of support. At the end of the letter, he asked about Lin Chaoying's injured condition and even though he used only a few words, his deep concerns were quite evident. Yang Guo said, "Hmm, during those years our Ancestor Grandma was injured but later she was well again. Your wound condition can slowly heal too. After a year or so, you can be recovered."

Xiao Longnu weakly smiled. She herself knew that her injury this time was far from normal. If an injury this heavy could be cured, that would be like having an immortal walking the earth. But to say it out loud right now wouldn't help light up the situation. Even if Yang Guo's suggestion couldn't convince her, it would make him feel better. So she said, "Slow treatment is good. What's the rush? And these letters don't really talk about private matters, you can read on!"

Yang Guo read another letter, which was filled with words of grief and anger. It talked about the army's defeat and how Wang Chongyang had to risk everything to break out of a heavy encirclement. But even his retreat was a disaster with ultimate deaths and casualties; at the end of the letter he said he was going to gather troops again for another battle. From that point on every letter all talked about military defeats and setbacks. The Jin power at the North river was very strong and Wang Chongyang obviously already knew that the matters were gravely serious. The letter was full of desperate and disheartening messages.

Yang Guo said, "These letters are very depressing. Let's not  read  anymore!  Eh,  what's  this?"  Suddenly there was excitement in his voice and the hand that held the  letter  slightly  trembled.  He  read  aloud, "There, at the most northern and bitterly cold area, is a stone called Chilled Jade [Han Yu]. It can control all illnesses and cure incurable diseases and should help my sister [Lin Chaoying]. Long’er, do you think this...this is the Chilled Jade Bed?"

As Xiao Longnu saw the happy expression on his face, her voice shook, "You… You said the Chilled Jade Bed could heal my injury?" Yang Guo replied, "I don't know but Master Chongyang said so. It must have a basis. You see, the Chilled Jade Bed was provided by him, wasn't it? Our Ancestor Grandma slept on this bed, didn't she? And her severe injury finally healed, right?"

He hurriedly unfolded every letter to look for a way to treat injuries but, apart from that one letter, the two words "Chilled Jade" were not mentioned again anywhere. Yang Guo finally tied up the many letters with the ribbon and put them back in the box. Blankly, he pondered, "This Chilled Jade Bed is this strange. There must be a reason. But how do I find out a way to treat Long’er’s injury? Hmm, let me figure out the way… let me figure out the way "

Xiao Longnu smiled and asked, "You look lost in thought, what's on your mind?"

Yang Guo then replied, "I'm trying to figure out a way to use the Chilled Jade Bed to treat your injury. Do I grind the stone for you to take as medicine or do I use any medicine to complement it somehow?" If he didn't know that the Chilled Jade Bed could treat all injuries, that would be the end of story but now that he'd read the six words "control all illnesses, cure incurable diseases" and couldn't figure out how to use the Chilled Jade Bed, his heart was on fire. Dismally Xiao Longnu said, "Do you remember Sun Po Po? She took care of both our Ancestor Grandma and my master for many years. Still when she was injured by the Taoist named Hao, she… she died of a severe injury." Originally Yang Guo was full of hope. Now hearing her words, he felt as if he was suddenly drenched with cold water.

Xiao Longnu stretched out her hand to stroke his hair gently. With a gentle voice she said, "Guo’er, you don't have to worry so much about my injury. Why should you put yourself through agony again?"

Yang Guo was completely disheartened but after a while, he asked, "How did my Shi Zu [Martial Grandma

–referring to her master] get injured?" Even though Yang Guo had lived at Gu Mu for many years, he actually never heard Xiao Longnu talk about how her master passed away.

Xiao Longnu said, "My master isolated herself inside Gu Mu and rarely went outside. Then there was this one year my Shi Jie [apprentice sister] went out and caused trouble. She fled back to Mount Zhongnan so my master had to leave the tomb to help. Then unexpectedly she fell into an enemy trap. Even though my master lost the fight, she could still bring back Shi Jie. That should have been the end of it. But then she bickered with that evil person. Nobody would have expected that he would want a yard after getting an inch. Shortly after the fight, he was outside Gu Mu, issuing a challenge, and then broke into the tomb. My master couldn't fend him off and almost had to drop the dragon stone to die together with him inside. Fortunately, at a critical moment, she threw out a golden needle. That evil person was caught off guard and got hit. The itchy pain was difficult to bear and my master used that opportunity to strike his pressure points. Seeing him unable to move, she didn't expect that Shi Jie would sneak up to unseal the pressure points. In the end that evil person attacked her and that was when she got struck by his poison hand."

Yang Guo asked, "Who was that evil person? His martial skills were even above my Martial Grandma. He must have been a high master of her generation."

Xiao Longnu said, "Master didn't tell me. She said that my heart shouldn't be filled with any love or hate feelings and that if she told me who that evil person was, I wouldn't forget him and would later go seek revenge."

Yang Guo sighed and said, "Hmmm, Shi Zu [Martial Grandma] was really a good person!"

Xiao Longnu smiled and said, "If master could see me today being married to a good son-in-law like this, she would be quite delighted."

With a laugh, Yang Guo said, "That might not be the case. She wouldn't let you marry anyone."

Xiao Longnu sighed, "My master was really the kindest. Even though at first she wouldn't allow it, afterwards, seeing my heart, she would have relented. She… she would certainly have liked you." Xiao Longnu was recalling her master's kindness and was lost in thought for a long time. Then she said, "After master was injured, she moved to another room on the opposite side far away from the Chilled Jade Bed. She said our Gu Mu sect's martial style and cold  air  induced  and  subdued  each  other,  therefore  the Chilled Jade Bed wonderfully helped us practicing our martial skills. But after injury, we should not be exposed to the cold air."

Yang Guo made a "hmm" sound while pondering how internal energy circulated through vital organs. To use internal energy according to the Jade Maiden Manual, the pure Yin air would flow through body pulses, causing the inner body to be extremely cold and sending out heat steams to the outside of the body. When practicing, clothing had to be removed so the heat steams could be smoothly dispersed without any obstruction. And the internally injured could not use the cold air from the Chilled Jade Bed. He contemplated, "But what did Master Wang Chongyang mean by "control all illnesses, cure incurable diseases? This induce and subdue principle must be missing some important details." Then he saw Xiao Longnu's eyelids drooping, indicating that she was exhausted. He said, "You should rest, I'm sitting right here to keep you company."

Xiao Longnu quickly opened her eyes wide and said, "No, I'm not tired. Tonight, we won't sleep." With her heavy injury, she was afraid that once she slept, she wouldn't wake up again. Then she said, "You keep on talking to me. Hmm, are you tired?"

Yang Guo shook his head and said with a tiny smile, "You don't want to sleep then don't. Just close your eyes and keep your mind awake."

Xiao Longnu said, "All right!" She slowly closed her eyelids and said in a low voice, "My master once said, there was one thing that till the day she died she still couldn't figure out. Guo’er, you are very smart, you can think about it." Yang Guo said, "What is it?" Xiao Longnu then said, "Master hit that evil person's pressure point but she didn't know why Shi Jie [Apprentice Sister] would help him unseal it." Yang Guo was deep in thought for a while and then felt Xiao Longnu's body resting against his. Her breaths were shallow. She already fell asleep.

Yang Guo gazed at her face, his heart filled with apprehension. Time passed. A candle flame flickered and then went out by itself.

He suddenly remembered a vertical couplet in a small room at the Peach Blossom Island:

"Silkworms will not stop spitting their threads until they die; the candle has burned to ashes when tears dry up."

Missing his wife, Huang Yaoshi wrote these two lines of a Tang poem and hung them outside the study where she used to embroider. At that time, Yang Guo saw them but paid no attention. He was just too young to understand. Now he slowly absorbed the true meaning of the lines and his heart was breaking. Suddenly before his eyes, another candle was flickering it’s last light. He thought, "These two candles are just like Long’er and I. One has burned out and the other is about to be extinguished."

He was deep in thought for a while and then heard Xiao Longnu quietly murmur, "I'm not going to die. Guo’er... I'm not going to die. The two of us will live for many, many, many years."

Yang Guo said, "That's right. You can't die. You'll slowly improve and then you'll be well. How does your chest feel?" Xiao Longnu didn't reply. She was just talking in her sleep.

Yang Guo stretched out his hand to brush her forehead but felt it was burning. He was both worried and sad. He thought, "Li Mochou did all kinds of evil things but she is now alive and well. Long’er has never caused anyone harm. How come her life is cut short? Oh God, Oh God, you open your eyes but don’t see?"

In his entire life, he was never a prisoner of fear and he always acted as he pleased. But right now, facing a hopeless situation, he couldn't do anything. He gently put Xiao Longnu's body to the side and knelt down on the ground. He secretly prayed, "So long as God has mercy and let her injured body recover, I will... I will..." To redeem Xiao Longnu's life, how would there be anything he was not willing to do?

While he was praying, Xiao Longnu suddenly said, "It was Ouyang Feng. Sun Po Po [Grandma Sun] said it was Ouyang Feng! Guo’er, Guo’er, where are you?" She called out in alarm and lifted her body up. Yang Guo quickly sat down by the bed, grabbed her hand, and said, "I'm here." In her sleep, Xiao Longnu felt her body without support so she immediately woke up. Seeing now that Yang Guo was still right by her and hadn't gone anywhere, she was greatly consoled.

Yang Guo said, "Don't worry. In this lifetime, I'll never leave you. And in the future, when we leave Gu Mu, I will never leave your side even for a bit."

Xiao Longnu said, "In the outside world, sure enough there are so many good places to go. But when we get outside, I'll still be afraid."

Yang Guo said, "Today we don't have to fear anything. We'll wait for a  few  months  for  your  body  to recover, and then we'll head south. I've heard that Lingnan [a place in South China] is warm like spring all year round. The flowers bloom and don't wither and the leaves always stay green. We'll put down our swords. We'll grow plants and raise small chickens and ducks. We'll live under the southern sun for the rest of our lives and have many, many boys and girls. Do you think these are good ideas?"

Xiao Longnu daydreamed and gently said, "We'll put down our swords forever. That's wonderful! Nobody hurts us and we don't need to hurt others. We'll grow things on a farm and we'll keep chickens and ducks..

.. Oh, only if I don't die..."

For the moment, the two hearts flew to a far-away Southern place, which was blessed with spring breezes and morning sun. They could smell the rich flower fragrances and they could hear the sounds of small chickens clucking and ducks...

No longer being able to support her head, Xiao Longnu’s mind was about to slip into a blur. But she was determined not to sleep so she said, "I don't want to sleep. You keep talking to me."

Yang Guo said, "Just now in your sleep you said something about Ouyang Feng. What was the matter?" Xiao Longnu then said, "I said Ouyang Feng? What about him?"

Yang Guo added, "You also said Sun Po Po [Grandma Sun] decided that it was him."

As Xiao Longnu heard him saying that, she immediately recalled something and said, "Oh! Sun Po Po said the man who injured my master had to be West Poison Ouyang Feng. She said in the world there were only very few people who could have hurt my master. And Ouyang Feng was the only bad person among those people. Until her death, my master never said that evil person's name. Sun Po Po asked her 'Is it Ouyang Feng, is it Ouyang Feng?' but my master shook her head, smiled, and then passed away. Isn't that Ouyang Feng your adoptive father? His martial skills were really high;  no  wonder  my  master  couldn't defeat him."

Yang Guo sighed and said, "My adoptive father has died. Martial Grandma and Sun Po Po have died. Master Chongyang and Ancestor Grandma have died. Hatred, love, and death were all written off by God. It was like my Martial Grandma could see the future so she was not willing to say my adoptive father's name..." But suddenly he shouted, "Oh…that must be it!"

Xiao Longnu asked, "What have you figured out?"

Yang Guo replied, "Li Mochou didn't unseal my adoptive father's pressure point that Martial Grandma hit. Actually, it was because Martial Grandma didn't hit the mark in the first place!"

Xiao Longnu said, "She didn't hit the mark? That was not possible. My master's accupoint sealing skill was really remarkable."

Yang Guo said, "My adoptive father had two of the world's strange martial skills. In his whole body, the vital energy could circulate against the normal flow.  The  opposite  circulation  shifted  all  his  pressure points so sealing the pressure point actually meant missing the point.”

Xiao Longnu said, "There is something that strange?"

Yang Guo said "Let me try it for you to see." Having said that, he flipped up-side down and used his hand to prop himself up on the floor, his head down and legs up in the air. Then he quickly spun himself, making a few rounds, and then breathed in a few times. Suddenly he jumped up and bumped his head into a pointed corner of the table in front of the bed. Xiao Longnu cried out, "Ai yo, be careful!" only to see the "Hundred Meetings" point [Bai Hui] on his head hit the corner of the stone table hard. This "Hundred Meetings" point was right on top of the brain, where the vertical line from the front to the back of the head and the horizontal line from the left ear to the right ear intersect, and hence the name "hundred meetings point." This was a vital pressure point, which controlled all the veins. Doctors usually compared it to the North Star, as in the saying "Bai Hui [Hundred Meetings] is sky, Xuan Ji [Jade Pearl -chest] is man, and Yong Quan [Bubbling Spring -legs] is earth," which was to say that these "three big pressure points" were the most critical in a human body. Knowing this, Yang Guo bumped it right into a table corner and then turned around to stand erect. With a laugh he said, "You see, as the energy flew in the opposite direction, my Hundred Meetings point changed its position!" Xiao Longnu clucked her tongue in approval and said, "How very strange. And he came up with that!"

Hitting himself this time, even though Yang Guo didn't seal his pressure point, he used quite a bit of force and his brain couldn't help becoming confused. In his daze, he seemed to have figured out something important all of a sudden but couldn't quite say what it was. Xiao Longnu saw him looking dazed and disoriented so she said with a smile, "Dumb kid, a gentle demonstration would have been enough. Nobody told you to crash into the table so hard. Does it hurt?" Yang Guo didn't reply just waved his hand for her to stop talking. He concentrated on his thoughts but felt like there was a fuzzy shadow flashing in his brain, barring him from getting a clear picture. It seemed he needed to recall something from the past, yet it was also like he'd suddenly discovered something new. He wished he could have just taken it out from his brain, stopped that moving shadow, put that thought before his eyes and clearly look at it.

He thought for a while. Still he couldn't grasp the main points and couldn't give up thinking either. He grabbed his head. Quite vexed, he asked Xiao Longnu, "Long’er, I've figured out an extremely important matter but I don't know what. Do you know?" When a person got his thoughts mixed up like entangled threads and he himself didn't have a clue, asking another person  what  he  was  thinking  was  quite ridiculous. But for the two of them who had lived together for a long time and understood each other very well, their guesses would be correct most of the times. Xiao Longnu  said,  "This  is  a  very  important matter?" Yang Guo replied, "Yes." Xiao Longnu asked, "Is it related to my injury? Delighted, Yang Guo said, "Good, very good! What matter is that? What have I figured out?"

With a chuckle, Xiao Longnu said, "You just talked about your adoptive father Ouyang Feng. You said he could direct vital energy to circulate in the opposite direction. Is this related to my injured condition? I'm not the person he injured..."

Yang Guo suddenly jumped up and shouted out loudly, "Got it!"

These two words "Got it!" were brightly loud. The doors of the stone chambers inside Gu Mu were not closed so each and every word spoken echoed back, "Got it, Got it..." Yang Guo grabbed Xiao Longnu's right arm and repeatedly cried out, "You could be saved! You could be saved! You could be saved!" He couldn't restrain his happiness; nor could he really find words to express it. Seeing him all excited, Xiao Longnu was infected with this joyous feeling. She sat up.

Yang Guo said, "Long’er, you listen to my words. Right now you are seriously injured so you can't use our sect's Jade Maiden skills. And this makes it difficult for you to recover from the injury. But if you can circulate your vital energy against the flow to heal yourself, the Chilled Jade Bed will precisely  be  a marvelous aid.”

Xiao Longnu had yet to understand. She mumbled, "Vital energy against the flow... the Chilled Jade Bed..."

Happily, Yang Guo said, "Would you say this is fate? You've practiced the Jade Maiden skill, which was good enough. On top of that we have the Chilled Jade Bed."

Xiao Longnu became confused so she said, "I still don't quite understand."

Yang Guo then explained, "The Jade Maiden skills follow the Yin energy but the reverse flow skills are pure Yang. When I talked about my adoptive father's reverse energy flow skills, I vaguely felt that your injured condition could be healed. Then I hit my head and, afterwards, recalled what Master Chongyang mentioned in his letter about the Chilled Jade. And it all became clear."

Xiao Longnu said, "So is that to say our Ancestor Grandma, who used the Chilled Jade Bed to treat her injury, could reverse the energy flow as well?”

Yang Guo said, "That's not likely. Our Ancestor Grandma would definitely not know this reverse energy flow technique. But I suspect that she was injured by the Yin's soft internal energy. Your injury, on the other hand, was caused by the opposite force of the hard Yang." Xiao Longnu smiled and nodded. Then with a joyful feeling, she put her mind at ease.

Yang Guo said, "We'd better not wait. Let us do it now." He then went into the firewood room and took out a bunch of firewood. He lit them up in the corner of the stone room. Then he taught Xiao Longnu the most basic elements of the reverse energy flow skills and helped her sit up on the Chilled Jade Bed. He sat by the fire. As he used his left hand to press against Xiao Longnu's right palm, he said, "I'll push this heat through each of your pressure points and you use your internal energy to circulate it against the normal flow. We'll do it one point at a time and when the heat comes back to the Chilled Jade Bed, your injured condition should improve a little bit." With a smile Xiao Longnu said, "Do I have to get down and spin myself just like you did?" Yang Guo said, "Nah, that's not necessary.  Spinning  is  for  shifting  pressure points. It's only good when fighting enemies. We are slowly healing your injury; sitting down here is just as good."

Xiao Longnu stretched her hand to hold his left palm and with a smile she said, "Come to think of it, that Guo Guniang wasn't too mean. She didn't cut off both of your arms." The two people had been through so many near death incidents that the matter of missing an arm became trivial. And Xiao Longnu was even joking about it. Yang Guo also laughed and retorted, "If both of my arms got cut off, I'd still have two feet. Only that using my soles to help you circulate the energy would be  hilariously  smelly  and  not  quite elegant." Xiao Longnu scoffed and then silently recited the principle of reverse energy flow. After a while, she said, "I've got it!"

Yang Guo saw that the fire was burning too intense so he got up to slow it down. And just when they were about to begin circulating the energy, he suddenly called out, "Ai yo! I almost missed one important detail! Xiao Longnu said, "What is it?" Yang Guo pointed to Guo Xiang who was sleeping at the foot of the bed and said, "At a critical moment, if this little devil cries out, it will be quite a disaster!" Xiao Longnu then murmured, "Very dangerous!" When one was circulating and cultivating energy, the most evil taboo was a disturbed mind. Quite some time ago, Xiao Longnu and Yang Guo were practicing their Jade Maiden skills and were discovered by Yin Zhiping and Zhao Zhijing. Xiao Longnu's anger caused her to spit up blood and she almost died. In addition to that, at that time her body was normally healthy. Today she was heavy injured, how would she be able to withstand any bit of distraction?

Yang Guo mixed half a bowl of the bee honey, picked up Guo Xiang, and fed her before moving her to a distant stone chamber. He shut two doors between them so even if she cried out, they wouldn't hear her. Then he came back to stay by the chilled jade bed and said, "To clear the thirty six major pressure points your body, I think at best it will take ten days and at worst about half a month. Originally it should have taken many, many days because it's hard to avoid distraction. But our Gu Mu is completely isolated from the outside world, making it the best place on earth for recovery. Even the most remote wild mountain or valley won't be as good because there will always be the sound of birds or the smell of flowers to disturb one's mind."

Xiao Longnu smiled and said, "My injury was caused by the Quanzhen Taoists but it was their founding master who gave us the tomb chamber and the Chilled Jade Bed for me  to  rest and recover  in. So their merits and crimes actually cancelled out each other."

Then Yang Guo said, "What about that Jinlun Fawang? We can't let him get away with it."

Xiao Longnu sighed and said, "So long as I can live, what else do you have to be unhappy about?"

Yang Guo held her hand and said, "You are right. This time after you've recovered, we'll never fight with people again. God is so kind to us. Hmmm..."

Xiao Longnu gently said, "We'll go south to become farmers and we'll raise a lot of chickens and ducks..." As she was saying that, she felt the heat energy passing into her body. With a trembling heart, she used the reverse energy flow technique that Yang Guo taught her to circulate that energy.

This healing method of using the reverse energy flow technique and the Chilled Jade Bed to complement each other was really strange but the result was also very effective. Years ago, Reverend Yi Deng had used the “Divine One Yang Finger” to cure Huang Rong's injury by circulating energy and clearing all her pressure points in pretty much the same way. The difference was that using the One Yang Finger to cure an illness ravenously consumed a lot of Reverend Yi Deng's internal energy but hence lead to a quick recovery. Yang Guo's method would take many days to see results. And more than that, for a non-martial person who was heavily injured, a master of the One Yang Finger would use his profound internal energy to help the injured circulate the Yang energy and thus bring him back to health. In Xiao Longnu's case, she didn't have a very deep internal energy foundation but she and Yang Guo were from the same sect, yet could use different techniques. Not even Ouyang Feng coming back from the grave or Huang Yaoshi arriving could create a harmony between the helper and the helped like this. And nor would they be able to help Xiao Longnu to reverse her energy flow without innumerable difficulties.

Three times a day, Yang Guo would go out to feed Guo Xiang with honey and boiled pumpkin. Other than that he rarely left Xiao Longnu's side. To clear major pressure points, sometimes it would take four or five hours during which their hands could not be separated. At the time Guo Jing was injured, Huang Rong spent seven days and seven nights helping him cure the injuries. Compared to Guo Jing's sturdy body, Xiao Longnu's was far more delicate and so her injury was many times more serious.

o0o

That day at the outskirts of the woods, Huang Rong used her "Orchid Brushing Accupoint" skills to defeat Li Mochou. Then she looked everywhere but still couldn't find her baby Guo Xiang. She was filled with anxiety and sorrow. As she came out of the forest, she shouted at Li Mochou, "What kind of tricks did you use? Where did you hide my baby?"

Surprised, Li Mochou said, "Isn't the little girl tucked behind the thorn fence?"

Huang Rong was so worried that she almost broke down in tears. She shook her head and replied, "She's disappeared."

Li Mochou had been fostering Guo Xiang for many days and was quite attached to her. Suddenly hearing that she was missing, her heart skipped a beat. She quickly said, "Must be either Yang Guo or Jinlun Fawang."

Huang Rong then asked, "How do you know?"

Then Li Mochou told her about her fight with Yang Guo and Fawang over the baby outside the walls of Xiangyang. As she talked about the dangers, Huang Rong couldn't keep her indifferent appearance. Seeing Li Mochou's worried expression, Huang Rong was then convinced that she didn't know where Guo Xiang was and so she stretched out her hand to unseal the "Jade Pearl" pressure point [Xuan Ji] on her chest. With Huang Rong's technique, Li Mochou could move round but  she  wouldn't  be  able  to  hurt anyone for a twelve-hour period.

With a forced smile, Li Mochou straightened up her body and brushed away the dirt. She said, "If it was Yang Guo who took her, she wouldn't be harmed. I'm only afraid that Fawang snatched her." Huang Rong asked again, "Why is that?" Li Mochou replied, "Yang Guo was extremely good with the little baby girl. He quickly protected her from harm. That was why I blindly thought she was his daughter." Having realized what she just said, she suddenly shut up for fear that Huang Rong would get angry again.

But really Huang Rong's mind was occupied by another matter. She was thinking about how Yang Guo and Li Mochou battled with Jinlun Fawang to protect Guo Xiang, while  she  herself  and  Guo  Fu  wrongly accused him of abominable crimes, and how Guo Fu had cut off his arm. Deep down in her heart was a grim regret. She blamed herself, "Alas, Guo’er has saved Jing Ge Ge [Brother Jing]. He's saved me. He's saved Fu’er. And this time he's saved Xiang’er... First impressions always stuck in my heart. I thought about his terribly evil father and then concluded that the son had to be like the  father. I’ve never trusted him... Occasionally I treated him nicely and then I'd suspect him of doing something again. Rong’er… Rong’er... You've prided yourself on being intelligent. You've spoken of confidentiality and righteousness. You are really nothing like Jing Ge Ge [Brother Jing].”

Seeing tears brimming in her eyes, Li Mochou thought she was worried about her daughter's safety. So she urged, "Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo], your daughter is only a month old. She's gone through quite a catastrophe but not even a single hair on her head is damaged. She was born as pretty as a doll [jade snow]. Even a she-devil, who killed people without batting an eye like me, likes her very much. She must have been born with a lucky life... the life that will change misfortune into fortune. And for all that, you can be at peace. Let the two of us go look for her together."

Huang Rong wiped away the tears with her shirt sleeve and thought that what Li Mochou said was quite right. She also thought, "Honesty is the best way. Later on, I'll let people think badly of me but I won't think badly of people." Then she stretched out her hand to unseal Li Mochou's "Jade Pearl" point [Xuan Ji] again and said, "Li Dao Zhang [Sister Li] is willing to go find my daughter with me, I'm very grateful. But if you have an important matter to attend to, I can see you later."

Li Mochou said, "What important matter? The most important thing is to find this little baby. You wait a minute!" Having said that, she rushed to the big hole inside a big tree and untied a rope on a leopard's foot. Then she slapped its behind and said, "Off you go." That leopard let out a low roar and quickly disappeared into the long grass. Puzzled, Huang Rong asked, "What did the leopard do?" With a laugh, Li Mochou said, "That was your daughter's ‘wet-nurse’."

Huang Rong smiled faintly and the two people headed back into town. Then they saw Guo Fu standing at the road that led into town. She was waiting impatiently for her mother.

Seeing Huang Rong, Guo Fu jumped up with joy and called out, "Ma [Mother], little sister was..." She cut herself off in mid-sentence when she unexpectedly saw that standing behind her mother was Li Mochou and she couldn't help being frightened. She prepared herself to fight. In past times, she’d heard Wu Di Xiong [The Wu Brothers] say that Li Mochou killed their mother, so in her heart this was the most evil person on earth.

Huang Rong said, "Li Dao Zhang [Sister Li] is helping us search for your little sister. What did you say about your sister just now?"

Guo Fu replied, "Mei Mei [Sister] was kidnapped by Yang Guo. And he also snatched my little red horse. You look at this sword." Having said that, she raised a bent sword to show her mother and said, "He used his empty shirt sleeve to strike it. The sword hit the corner of a wall and it turned out like this."

Huang Rong and Li Mochou asked at the same time, "Using his shirt sleeve?"

Guo Fu replied, "Yes, it was really weird! Who would have thought he'd learned a devil Kung fu."

Huang Rong and Li Mochou looked at each other in amazement. The two of them naturally knew that a person with extremely profound internal energy could definitely turn silk  into  a  stick,  or  use  a  soft material to strike a hard object. However, even if such a renowned and talented master could be found, he would still need thirty or forty years of practice to reach that level. At a very young age,  Yang  Guo surprisingly had reached this high stage. And this was extremely rare. As Huang Rong heard that  her daughter was taken by Yang Guo, she felt quite relieved. Li Mochou, on the other hand, thought to herself, "This boy's marvelous Kung Fu must be the result of learning from my master's Jade Heart Manual. Right now I have Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo] with me. If I help her get her daughter back, she will help me snatch the manual. I'm the first disciple of the sect. Even though Shi Mei [Apprentice Sister] was Master's favorite, she’d already broken the sect's rule. How could I let the manual fall into a man's hand?" And with this thought, she felt herself quite righteous.

Huang Rong had tracked down Yang Guo's direction and said, "Fu’er, you don't have to go back to the Peach Blossom Island anymore. We'll go find Yang Da Ge [Big Brother Yang] together."

Guo Fu was very pleased, and said, "Okay, Okay!" But then when she thought that she would have to see Yang Guo, her face turned completely pale.

Huang Rong's face was grim and she said, "When you see him again; don't ask him if he's forgiven you. You have to sincerely take the blame and apologize."

In her heart, Guo Fu didn't want to submit so she said, "Why do I have to  do  it?  Isn't  he  the  one kidnapping Mei Mei [Sister]?"

Huang Rong simply rephrased Li Mochou's words and said, "If he really had an evil intention, do you think your sister would still live today? Also, if he didn't just hit your sword but rather aimed at your small head, don't you think right now this would be quite a pretty scene?"

Hearing her mother's words, Guo Fu still couldn't help but shiver inside. She secretly thought, "Is that to say he's really shown mercy?" But since she had been spoiled since she was little she still argued, "He's snatched my sister away; naturally he is on his way to the Passionless Valley!"

Huang Rong shook her head and said, "No, he would definitely go back to Mount Zhongnan."

Guo Fu pursed her lips and said, "Ma, you are actually helping him! If he really had a good intention, why wouldn't he bring Mei Mei back to us in Xiangyang? For what reason would he have to take her to Mount Zhongnan?"

Huang Rong sighed and said, "You and Yang Da Ge [Big Brother Yang] grew up together. For all that you still don't understand his character! He's always been arrogant and he's never taken kindly to insults. You cut off his arm. He could have taken your life but he didn't have the heart to. But for this matter, he also wouldn't back down. He took your sister away to make us worry. When time passes  and  his  anger disappears, he'll just bring your sister back to us. Have you understood? You accused him of stealing your little sister so he simply did it to show you that he could!”

Huang Rong returned to the small restaurant that they just visited. She borrowed stationary and penned a short letter. Then she gave the store partner two silver coins for him to deliver the letter to Guo Jing in Xiangyang.

That man said, "Guo Da Xia [Hero Guo] protects our borders and keeps our mind at ease. He really is our people's Buddha. If we little people can help in anyway, we'll not hesitate." He was not willing to take the money. He picked up the letter and happily left. Guo Fu saw that many people revered her father like this; she was very pleased in her heart.

The three people bought mules and set out toward Mount Zhongnan. Guo Fu didn't like Li Mochou and they rarely talked on the way. When she bumped into Li Mochou by chance and couldn't avoid talking, her expression would turn cold. They started traveling in the morning and stopped at night to rest. The journey was smooth. But this afternoon, while the three of them rode in a line, they saw someone speeding her horse towards them.

End of Chapter 28. 
@Chapter 29 – Ultimate Disasters
Guo Fu called out, "It's my little red horse. It's my..." As she was saying that, the red horse rushed in front of them. Guo Fu leapt forward. The red horse recognized its master and didn't need for her to pull the reins. It fought to stop, raised its head, and neighed.

Guo Fu saw that mounting on the horse was a young girl dressed in black. When they met before, Guo Fu was fighting side by side with her against Li Mochou. This girl was indeed Wanyan Ping. Her hair was disheveled. Her face was greenish pale. And she looked extremely distressed. Seeing that, Guo Fu asked, "Wanyan Zi Zi [Elder Sister Wanyan], what's happened to you?"

Wanyan Ping pointed her finger to the path she just came from and said, "Quick… Quick..." Suddenly her body toppled, falling down from the horse.

Guo Fu cried out in alarm and reached out to support her. She turned to her mother and said, "Ma, this is elder sister Wanyan." While saying that, she gave Li Mochou a stare.

Huang Rong mused, "She raced the precious horse [Han Xie Yu] like this. Nobody in the world could catch up with her so of course she was not in danger. But when she pointed her finger to the North, she had a distressed look. She must be worried about other people. We must rush out to help them." So she told her daughter to help Wanyan Ping sit up on the horse and also said, "This horse's feet are too swift. You can't rush ahead of me no matter what!" Guo Fu asked, "Why not?" Huang Rong quipped, "There's a great danger lying ahead. How have you not figured it out?" After saying that she gave Li Mochou a hand signal and the two galloped north.

After rushing for ten li, as expected they heard the faint sounds of weapons clashing from the other side of the mountain. Huang Rong and Li Mochou urged the mules to go around the mountain and then in the field before them they saw five people engaging in a wicked fight. Two of them were the Wu brothers. There were also a young man and a young woman Huang Rong did not recognize. The four of them were fighting against a middle-aged man and even though it was four against one, they were defending more than attacking. The Wu brothers were both wounded and the young man was fiercely brandishing his long sword against that middle-aged man's better moves. Lying down  on  the  ground  nearby  was  another person, Wu Santong, who was incessantly yelling and shouting.

Huang Rong saw that man's left hand holding a large flashing gold knife and his right hand wielding a thin, long, black sword. His sword moves were strangely fantastic and not something she'd seen before. If she herself didn't jump in, the Wu brothers would definitely be in imminent danger. So she said to Li Mochou, "Those two young men are my disciples."

Li Mochou let out a laugh and said, "Their mother was killed by me. How can it be that you don't know?" Li Mochou saw that the middle-aged man's martial skills were strangely high. She'd never heard that there was such a person in Jianghu and she was secretly quite astonished. Finally, she faintly smiled and said, "Let's fight!" Li Mochou pulled out her fly whisk while Huang Rong also held firm the bamboo stick in her hand. Then together the two of them approached that man from left and right. Li Mochou's brush attacked his black sword while Huang Rong's bamboo cane tangled his gold knife.

This middle-aged man was of course the master of the Passionless Valley sect Gongsun Zhi. As he suddenly saw two middle-aged beautiful females coming to attack in pair, his heart shook. But then he heard Li Mochou shout, "One!" and her whisk flashed out. "Two!" she called out again. At first she and Huang Rong were secretly comparing their strength to see who would first beat this person but as she continuously counted to "ten", Gongsun Zhi was still attacking and defending. Then, with three stances, the young man's sword was thrust to the back of Gongsun Zhi. These sword stances were packed with fierce strength. Gongsun Zhi knew he'd eventually lose if he continued to fight so he didn't try to block them but instead jumped forward over ten feet. He looked at Huang Rong and Li Mochou and secretly thought, "Where did these two ferocious women come from? But oh, how beautiful they are!" Having thought that, he clashed his knife and sword, making a weng-weng sound, and then leapt up again.

Huang Rong and Li Mochou didn't dare to underestimate the enemy so they tightened up their guards. Gongsun Zhi turned his body around in midair and when he dropped to the ground, he got up again and rushed up the mountain. With a smile, Huang Rong and Li Mochou looked at each other and both thought, "This person had powerful martial skills and was also cunning. If fighting by myself, I'm afraid that I wouldn't be his match."

The Wu brothers pressed their wounds with their hands and moved forward to kowtow to their Shi Mu [Martial Mother]. Then they both stood up and angrily stared at Li Mochou. Huang Rong said, "You won't settle the old debt today. Your father's injury would be in the way, wouldn't it? Who are these two people? Ai yo, wretched! Li Zi Zi [Elder Sister Li] come with me quickly!" She didn't even waste time getting on the mule but flew her body toward the road and rushed out. Li Mochou didn't get her meaning but still followed her. Then she asked, "What's the matter?" Huang Rong answered, "Fu’er, Fu’er will run right into this person!"

The two used their internal energy to pursue him but Gongsun Zhi was really fast. Only with a somewhat small delay, he'd already left them far behind.

Guo Fu was supporting Wanyan Ping with both hands. Both of them rode the red horse and slowly emerged from behind the mountain. Huang Rong saw them from a distance so she used her internal energy to call out, "Fu’er, be careful!" Her sound hadn't even faded when Gongsun Zhi quickly approached them and jumped up onto the horse’s back. He stretched out his hand to hold Guo Fu still while pulling the reins to turn the horse’s head around. Seeing that, Huang Rong puckered her lips to whistle and then rushed forward.

Gongsun Zhi was startled and thought, "How come today all my affairs went wrong like this? Can't I even befriend a domesticated animal?" Then he exerted his strength to rein in the horse. This force was not weak and so the red horse let out a long neigh and reared up. Thinking to flee southward, Gongsun Zhi forced the horse to turn around but instead it flitted about and kicked up its legs. And then it unexpectedly moved backwards step-by-step. Delighted, Huang Rong sped up. Gongsun Zhi saw that the red horse was incredibly stubborn and that Huang Rong and Li Mochou were closing in, he sheathed the weapons. Holding Guo Fu with his right hand and Wanyan Ping with his left, they got off the horse. Now Huang Rong and Li Mochou, with their lightness kung fu, were approaching fast and were only a short distance away.

Gongsun Zhi turned around and said with a smile, "If I squeeze my arms, will these two beautiful and delicate girls still live?"

Huang Rong asked, "Who are you, sir? You and I have never met. Why would you capture my daughter?"

With a smile Gongsun Zhi said, "This is your daughter? Are you really  Wanyan  Fu  Ren  [Madame Wanyan]?”

Huang Rong pointed at Guo Fu and said, "That one is my daughter!"

Gongsun Zhi looked at Guo Fu and turned to gaze at Huang Rong. With a grin he said, "Tsk...tsk...tsk, very beautiful. Mother and daughter are both beautiful, very beautiful!"

Although Huang Rong was furious, her daughter was in his hands. She had to be careful not to fight the enemy and harm her daughter in the process. Therefore she had used a delay tactic and reasoned with him. But suddenly she heard the two 'Sou…Sou' whishing sounds from behind. Two long arrows flew past her own left cheek and straight towards Gongsun Zhi. The arrows were fiercely fast and they made extremely loud sounds while cutting through the air. Upon hearing the sounds of the arrows, she was so happy she almost cried out, thinking it was surely her husband arriving. The martial masters in the central plains of China rarely learned arrow techniques. And even though Mongolian warriors' bow techniques were refined, without solid internal energy it was difficult to send an arrow very far. These two arrows were making such loud and solid sounds. Except for Guo Jing, she'd never seen any other person who could do it. But this arrow skill was actually still far from Guo Jing's level. By the time the arrows were halfway, Huang Rong realized that the shooter was not her husband.

Seeing the arrows zooming in, Gongsun Zhi opened his mouth and bit the tip of the first arrow and at the same time stepped aside, using the arrow shaft in his mouth to brush away the second one.

Huang Rong thought, "If it were Jing Ge Ge [Brother Jing] who shot those arrows, I bet using your mouth to catch an arrow like that would give you a hole in your throat." As she was about to move forward, she heard a series of 'Sou…Sou' whishing sounds again. Nine arrows flew in one by one, aiming at the area between Gongsun Zhi's eyebrows. And this time, in a tight situation, Gongsun Zhi had to put down the two girls and pull out his sword to block the arrows.

As Huang Rong and Li Mochou quickly rushed forward to rescue the two girls, they saw a flashing gray shadow rolling Guo Fu to the roadside. When that body turned over to get up, Gongsun Zhi, ignoring his gold knife, shot out his bare palm to strike the top of that person's head.

Lying on the ground, that person turned over his palm to block the attack. There came a clashing sound. Dust flew up all over the place. Gongsun Zhi then called out, "Good!" and sent out his second strike, with more strength this time. Seeing that it would be difficult for that person to block the attack, Huang Rong lashed out her “Dog Beating Stick”, using the "seal" stance to intercept that palm strike. Gongsun Zhi saw himself surrounded by the enemies. He knew that he couldn't win today. So with a 'Ha-Ha' laugh, he backed up three steps and turned his body to walk away. He appeared to carry himself naturally, with martial grace. Huang Rong and the others didn't dare to pursue.

While still holding Guo Fu, the person stood up. Then he dropped his arms. Huang Rong saw that he had a tall body with broad biceps, with a long bow hanging from his waist. This was precisely that youth who fought with a sword earlier. Also, naturally he was the one who shot out those eleven arrows. Even though Guo Fu fell into Gongsun Zhi's clutches just now, she wasn't injured at all and so she said, "Yelu Da Ge [Big Brother Yelu], many thanks for saving me." While saying that, she blushed prettily.

By this time Wu Xiuwen and a young girl caught up with them, leaving Wu Dunru to take care of his father. Normally, Wu Xiuwen should be the one introducing everybody but he was filled with rage and was viciously eyeing Li Mochou. He forgot everybody else at present. Huang Rong called him twice but he didn't even hear it. Li Mochou actually moved far away from them with her  hands  behind  her  back, watching the scenery. She of course didn't pay attention to these people.

Guo Fu pointed at the young man who had just rescued her and said to her mother, "Ma, this person is Yelu Qi, Yelu Da Ge [Big Brother Yelu]." Then she pointed at the tall young girl and said, "And this is Yelu Yan, Yelu Zi Zi [Elder Sister Yelu]." Huang Rong then praised them, "You two have quite wonderful kung fu!" The Yelu siblings together replied, "Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo] praises us!" and moved forward to pay respect.

Huang Rong then asked, "It looks like you two use the Quanzhen sect's kung fu. May I ask which of the Quanzhen Seven Masters your master is?" She saw Yelu Qi's martial skills and, except for Yang Guo, couldn't think of any other fourth generation disciple of the Quanzhen sect. Yelu Yan said, "My brother taught me my martial skills." Huang Rong nodded and turned to look at Yelu Qi. Yelu Qi felt quite awkward and said, "Elder asked me a question, I really should give you a truthful answer. Only my master has forbidden me, the young generation, to mention his old name. Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo], please forgive me."

Huang Rong was startled and thought, "Would the Quanzhen Seven Masters come up with this strange rule? This young man's martial skills were quite excellent, why couldn't he say his master's name?" Having thought this out, she suddenly burst out into a laugh and bent over with hands on her belly. This matter was really extremely funny. Puzzled, Guo Fu asked, "Ma, what's so funny?" She heard her mother seriously asked Yelu Qi which sect he belonged to. And suddenly she breaks out laughing like this. She was afraid that Yelu Qi would be upset so, embarrassed, she asked again, "Ma, Yelu Da Ge [Brother Yelu] can't say it. That's okay. What's so funny?" Still laughing, Huang Rong didn't answer. Yelu Qi had a smiling expression on his face and said, "Seems like Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo] guessed correctly." Guo Fu was at a loss. She turned her head to look at Yelu Yan and saw that she was also in the dark, not understanding what the two were laughing about.

Right now Wu Xiuwen was kneeling down to bandage Wanyan Ping's injury. Just now, while she was held hostage by Gongsun Zhi, she twisted her left ankle while escaping. Huang Rong asked, "Xiu’er how's your father's wound?" Wu Xiuwen replied, "Father was cut by that old Gongsun's sword. His left leg was injured but luckily the sword didn't damage his bone." Huang Rong nodded and walked over to lightly stroke the precious horse's mane. She gently said, "Horse, oh horse, our Guo family won't be able to repay you for your deep loyalty." Then she saw that Wu Xiuwen, with his rather strange expression, didn't speak to Guo Fu at all but took extremely good care of Wanyan Ping. But she didn't know whether he did this to show Guo Fu he was over her or he really was fond of this girl. She decided not to pursue the matter and said, "Let us go get your father."

Wu Santong was sitting on the ground. When he saw Huang Rong approaching, he called out, "Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo]!" and got up. He had a leg wound so his body was swaying. Wu Dunru and Yelu Yan reached out to hold him at the same time. As their hands bumped, they looked at each other with a smile.

Huang Rong secretly laughed in her heart, "How nice, another couple! Just a few days ago, the brothers were willing to kill each other for Fu’er, not thinking about their blood ties. Now that the boys have met pretty girls, they’ve instantly turned around and forgotten all about their original feelings." Suddenly she thought about Guo Jing and her heart couldn't help but swell with pride. Jing Ge Ge [Brother Jing] always stayed true to her and never changed, be it in good or bad fortune. How would these youths be able to compare to him? Then she thought about Yang Guo. She felt that his relationship with Xiao Longnu was unseemly. But she also knew that he was smart about relationships and stayed faithful to his love both in life and in death. That was actually something to be revered and respected.

The Wu brothers and Guo Fu grew up together on Peach Blossom Island. Firstly, on the island there was no other girl of their age. Second, time made the hearts grow fonder. If the two brothers didn't fall in love with Guo Fu, that wouldn't make sense at all. Later on, they suddenly found out that Guo Fu didn't return their feelings; they were brokenhearted and said that they would live a life without joy forever. They had no way of knowing that a short while later they would meet Yelu Yan and Wanyan Ping who they really should sympathize with. This time when the Wu brothers ran into Guo Fu, they secretly compared their sweethearts to her. The brothers felt that their loved ones were not only not inferior to Guo Fu but also even better. One thought, "Yelu Guniang [Miss Yelu] is open and kind. How could she be like you who are scheming and narrow-minded?" The other thought, "Wanyan Guniang is clearly sympathetic. She is also gentle and polite. How could she be like you who everyday makes people miserable?" The brothers had earlier vowed not to see Guo Fu again but had now ran into her by accident and couldn't quite escape. They both thought, "Today I didn't intend to go looking for you so  this can't  be  regarded as  breaking  a vow." In Guo Fu's mind, she only thought about how she had been captured by Gongsun Zhi just now and how Yelu Qi had saved her. She stole a look at him several times and saw that he was tall and handsome. She couldn't help secretly thinking, "I met him for the first time last year and later forgot all about him. At that time I didn't know that his martial skills would be like this. Mother and he were laughing together. What were they laughing about?"

Huang Rong examined the sword wound on Wu Santong's leg. Fortunately, it wouldn't be a great obstacle. Then everybody shared their stories.

On the day that Wu Santong, Zhu Ziliu and the Martial Uncle Indian monk left for the Passionless Valley to seek the antidote for Yang Guo, just outside of Xiangyang, Wu Santong ran into his two sons. Startled and afraid that they would fight again, he quickly told Zhu Ziliu to accompany Martial Uncle on ahead. Then he rushed out to stop the Wu brothers and asked questions. As it turned out, the Wu brothers both followed their vow spoken to Yang Guo about not seeing Guo Fu again so they didn't want to stay in Xiangyang any longer. Wu Santong was reassured so he praised them, "Good boys, you've got guts!" He also said, "Yang Xiong Di [Brother Yang] risked his own life to save us. Now he is in trouble, how can we not try to help him? The three of us, father and sons, should go to the Passionless Valley together."

The Passionless Valley was like a paradise outside this world. Although Yang Guo had told them about its approximate location, it was actually not easy to find the entrance. The three people went around in circle and took many paths but still they couldn't find the Valley entrance. The Indian monk and Zhu Ziliu had already fallen into the enemy's trap and been captured by the fishnets of Qiu  Qianchi's  disciples.  Wu Santong and his sons tried many times to help them without success and almost fell into the gorge. With no choice but to retreat, they thought that they would go back to Xiangyang to find help. Unfortunately, they ran into Gongsun Zhi who said the three of them were trespassing and  then  attacked  them.  Wu Santong was not his match and was cut on the leg. Gongsun Zhi didn't really want the three people's lives and so he just forced them to leave quickly and told them never to come back.

By this time, the Yelu siblings and Wanyan Ping happened to ride into view. The three people and the Wu brothers used to fight together so they got off their horses  and  started  talking  about  the  old  times. Gongsun Zhi was looking at them coldly from the side. He failed to marry Xiao Longnu and got kicked out of the sect by his wife so he was actually bored to death.  Seeing  that  Wanyan  Ping  was  young  and beautiful, he couldn't curb his evil desires and suddenly snatched her away with him. This time, the Yelu siblings and the Wu brothers all immediately jumped in to fight. If Wu Santong hadn't been injured, it would be six people joining forces and they would have had a chance against Gongsun Zhi. However, his leg was wounded so Yelu Qi was the only  strong fighter among  them  but they  couldn't fend off  Gongsun Zhi. It just so happened that the precious horse [Han Xie Yu] was running back by himself from Mount Zhongnan and heading towards Xiangyang. Wu Xiuwen grabbed him and let Wanyan  Ping  ride  away; hoping that Gongsun Zhi would lose interest after the  swan  was  gone.  They  didn't  expect  that  Huang Rong and Li Mochou would rush into the scene like this.

Huang Rong listened to the stories and talked briefly about how Yang Guo got his arm chopped off and how he snatched her young daughter. Wu Santong was greatly alarmed and quickly explained the root cause. He said, "Yang Xiong Di [Brother Yang] is brave and warm-hearted. Everything happened because, without thinking about himself, he saved these two animals of  mine  and  didn't  let  them  destroy themselves. Who would have thought that it would lead to these matters?" He thought about how Yang Guo got his arm chopped off, all because of his two sons. And the more he thought about it, the angrier he became. He suddenly pointed at the two sons and scolded them.

On the side, the Wu brothers, the Yelu siblings, and Wanyan Ping were all talking enthusiastically. A little while later, Guo Fu came in to join the discussion. The six people were of the same age and just went through a fierce battle together so with gusto they talked about how fierce and evil Gongsun Zhi was and how he finally fled into the wild. Suddenly they heard Wu Santong bellowed out a shout of outrage, "Wu Dunru, Wu Xiuwen, you two little animals, Yang Guo Xiong Di [Brother Yang Guo] was so good and kind to you but you caused him to lose his arm. You stop and think, how would our family Wu ever face him?" Both his face and ears turned red and the more he scolded, the fiercer he became. If not for his injured leg, he would have thrown himself out to strike them. The two brothers were baffled, not knowing how their father got so mad. Each of them stealthily looked at Yelu Yan and Wanyan Ping. They felt that in front of beautiful ladies, having their father calling them 'animal this' and 'animal that' was a great loss of face. But if they were still fighting over Guo Fu like before, that would be distressing too. The two brothers looked at each other at their wits' end, not knowing what to do.

Huang Rong saw the situation to be quite awkward so she intercepted, "Wu Xiong Di [Brother Wu], don't be so upset. Yang Guo's losing an arm was all little sister’s fault for not teaching my child better and letting her get away with being spoiled. At that time, father Guo was also so mad that he wanted to chop off her arm." Wu Santong then gave out a loud shout, "That's right. Good! Her arm should be chopped off!" Guo Fu's eyes turned white with fear. She thought, "Did you just say 'her arm should be chopped off'?" If her mother weren't there, Guo Fu would have said something in protest.

Huang Rong said, "Wu Xiong [Brother Wu], we've talked clearly enough about how your children wronged Yang Guo. Right now we have two important matters ahead. First, we must find Yang Guo to discover his condition." Wu Santong agreed, "Very good…Very good." Huang Rong then continued, "The second important thing is that we have to go to the Passionless Valley to rescue Martial Uncle and Zhu Da Ge [Brother Zhu] and at the same time get the antidote for Yang Guo. But do you know anything about Zhu Da Ge’s condition or whether or not his life is in danger?"

Wu Santong said, "My Martial Uncle and apprentice brother were trapped by the fish nets and imprisoned in a stone chamber (kiln). It seemed like that old woman still hasn't thought to harm them.” Huang Rong nodded and said, "Hmm, in that case we go to find Yang Guo first and go with him to the Passionless Valley to save those people. And once the antidote is obtained, he can take it immediately to avoid any more delays, and hence more dangers." Wu Santong said, "That's right. But do we know where Yang Guo is right now?" Huang Rong pointed at the precious horse [Han Xie Yu] and said, "This horse was just borrowed by Yang Guo. If we follow the road that this horse came from, we can find out where he is." Wu Santong was delighted and said, "Today, if not for the wisdom of Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo], the old Wu here would have flown into a fit of rage and made matters worse." This time Guo Fu couldn't bear to be quiet so she chimed in, "Isn't that right?"

Huang Rong smiled faintly. She didn't say a word about  seeking  her  younger  daughter  but  all  about getting Wu Santong to follow her. She mused, "If the Wu father and sons come with me, the other three young people will definitely tag along. Then there will be more people to help us. Isn't that wonderful?" She then turned to Yelu Qi and said, "If Yelu Xiao Ge [Little Brother  Yelu]  doesn't  have  any  pressing matters to attend to, how about you come along with us just for fun?" Yelu Qi had not yet answered, but Yelu Yan clapped her hands, crying out, "Okay… Okay! Ge Ge [Brother], let's go  with  them!"  Yelu  Qi couldn't bear Guo Fu's gaze. Seeing that the  glint  in  her  eyes  conveyed  an  encouraging  message,  he bowed and said, "If Elder Wu and Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo] wouldn't mind, Junior could only benefit from your guidance. This is precisely my greatest wish." With a pleased expression on her face, Wanyan Ping also slowly nodded.

Huang Rong then said, "Look, we are a group of many people, we must have someone to give orders. Wu Xiong [Brother Wu], from now on everybody will listen to your commands and nobody can disobey." Wu Santong waved his hands and said, "We have in you a wonderful strategist who can match Zhuge, who would dare to give orders? Naturally, it has to be you in charge." With a smile Huang Rong said, "Really?" Wu Santong replied, "How can that be wrong?" Huang Rong laughed and said, "Giving orders to the juniors is quite easy. I'm only afraid that your old self wouldn't listen to me." Then in a loud voice Wu Santong said, "Nonsense. I won't do such a thing. If you tell me to jump in water and walk on fire, I won't say no in any circumstances." Huang Rong said, "In front of these many juniors, how could you say things you don't mean?" Wu Santong blushed and responded, "Even if there were no one else here, how could I fail to keep my word?"

Huang Rong said, "All right! This time we will go find Yang Guo, get the antidote, and rescue your Martial Uncle and brother. We must work together. For any previous gratitude or grudges, we'll put them aside for the time being. Wu Xiong [Brother Wu], you, the Wu father and sons, cannot settle your debt with Li Mochou at this time. After we've accomplished our important mission, it will not be too late for shedding blood!" Wu Santong was startled. He hadn't thought that Huang Rong's spoken words would unexpectedly be meant for this matter as well. He and Li Mochou had wife-killing hatred to settle, how could he actually bear the rage in his heart? So he hesitated and didn't respond. With a gentle voice Huang Rong said, "Wu Xiong [Brother Wu], your leg has been injured. For a gentleman, revenge in ten years is still not too late. It won’t hurt to wait a little while longer will it?" Wu Santong then replied, "Good, whatever you say, I'll do it."

Huang Rong raised her voice to call Li Mochou, "Li Zi Zi [Elder Sister Li], let's go!" They let the precious horse [Han Xie Yu] lead the way and the people followed. The red horse originally wanted to return to Xiangyang but had instead run into its master. Huang Rong was now walking in front of him and heading towards Mount Zhongnan.

Wu Santong and Wanyan Ping were injured so they couldn't just speed away. They all traveled a hundred li for each day and then stopped to rest. Li Mochou stayed clear of other people at night and hurried along with them at a distance during the day.

Traveling by day and resting by night, the six young men and women were having a good time chatting and laughing. And the further they went, the friendlier they became. When the Wu brothers originally were bickering over Guo Fu, their brotherhood ties  were  greatly  strained.  Now  that  each  had  his  own love, the two brothers were on the best of terms. Wu Santong looked at them and his heart was greatly consoled. But also every time, he also thought, "That day, even if the two brothers weren't poisoned by Li Mochou, they could have destroyed each other. I'd have been left with only one… I couldn't even call him a son. And today the two animals are surprisingly having a good time while Brother Yang has lost an arm. Alas, what can I really say? Only cutting off an arm from each of these two little animals and putting them on Brother Yang's body would make sense." As for the fact that Yang Guo would end up with three arms in that scenario, he hadn't actually thought about it. And then one day they reached Mount Zhongnan. Huang Rong and Wu Santong led the group up to the Chongyang Palace to greet the Quanzhen five masters. Li Mochou stood at a distance and said, "I'll wait here then." Huang Rong knew Li Mochou and the Quanzhen sect had a grudge so she didn't press the matter and went up the path towards the Chongyang Palace.

Liu Chuxuan, Qiu Chuji and others were informed about their arrival so they quickly came out of the palace to welcome them. They entered the palace hall together and sat down at a provided place. As they were exchanging their greetings, they suddenly heard someone shouting loudly. Huang Rong was very delighted and called out, "Old Urchin, won't you come out and see who is here?"

Recently, Zhou Botong had been obsessively studying ways to command the Jade Bees. He was by nature intelligent and tenacious. But to everybody's surprise, he was happy with small successes and only wanted to play and have good times. Suddenly, he heard someone shouting. That was Huang Rong's voice. He was thrilled and so he said, "Aha…that is my brother's crafty and eccentric wife!" Then he made loud noises and rushed out from behind the hall.

Yelu Qi went forward and kowtowed. He said, "Shi Fu [Master], I pay you respect. May happiness be with you, Great Elder, forever." With a laugh Zhou Botong said, "Enough, just get up! May happiness be with you little baby forever too!"

Hearing that, the people all found it strange. Nobody would have expected Yelu Qi to be Zhou Botong's disciple. This Old Urchin was madly crazy but his chosen disciple was a skilled gentleman. Together, they were nothing alike. Qiu Chuji and others saw that their Shi Shu [Martial Uncle] had accepted a disciple; they were all very happy and then busily congratulated him. And this time, Guo Fu understood what her mother and Yelu Qi were laughing about the other day. It was because her mother had guessed correctly that Zhou Botong was Yelu Qi's teacher.

Yelu Qi had met Zhou Botong twelve years ago. At that time he was still quite young so he and Zhou Botong played together quite nicely. Zhou Botong then accepted him as a disciple. Although Zhou Botong didn't teach him a lot of kung fu, Yelu Qi was talented and determined. He practiced his martial skills diligently and surprisingly became an outstanding character of the young generation. Sadly for him, Zhou Botong saw him growing up well-behaved and nothing like a small mischievous child. His heart was filled with regrets and therefore didn't allow Yelu Qi to call himself the Old Urchin's direct disciple. But by this point, Zhou Botong couldn't get rid of him either.

Amid all the excitement came sudden sounds of battle cries from below the mountain. The sect disciples reported that the enemy was gathering for an attack. The other day the Quanzhen sect refused to bow down to the Mongolian Prince's imperial decree and also killed many of them. Qiu Chuji and others knew that this matter couldn't easily be resolved and that the Mongolian army would sooner or later come back up the mountain. They also realized that the Quanzhen sect would not be able to fend off the Mongolian army so they had already arranged a plan to abandon the palace and retreat to the West. By this time the Zhang Jiao [sect chief] position had already been assigned to a third generation disciple, Li Zhichang, but, facing this important matter, it was still left to the Quanzhen Five Masters to make decisions. Qiu Chuji turned to Huang Rong and said, "Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo], the Mongolian army has attacked! This is such an inopportune time. Please don't think badly of our hospitality."

Then everybody heard the deadly sounds of drum rolls and battle cries from below the mountain. Just now Huang Rong had come up the mountain from the southern side while the  Mongolian  army  took  the northern route. They had arrived roughly about the same time.

Zhou Botong said, "Are the enemies coming? How really wonderful! Come, we'll go make mincemeat out of them." Then he stretched out his hand to grab Yelu Qi's wrist and said, "You show the kung fu Shi Fu [Master] taught you to these several old sect brothers. I say you are not worse than the Quanzhen Seven Masters. Add you to them and we'll make the Quanzhen Eight Masters." In general, when small children had a beloved toy, they would want to show it off to people. If people liked it, then they'd become very happy. At first Zhou Botong had forbidden Yelu Qi to tell people who his master was because Yelu Qi lacked naughtiness and didn't in the least bit resemble the famous Old Urchin's skilled disciple. But today the master and the disciple met again and were delighted to see each other. Zhou Botong totally forgot the rule he himself set up before.

Qiu Chuji said, "Shi Shu [Martial Uncle], our sect has existed for many decades. It is the lifetime blood and sweat of my late master and can't be ruined in just one moment. Today the best plan is for everybody in our sect to retreat." Not waiting for Zhou Botong to voice his opinion, he gave orders, "Everybody carry all the things and go down the mountain according to our planned course." The many disciples replied in one voice, carried the packages that had been prepared earlier, and rushed down the east and west sides of the mountain in rows. A few days earlier, the Quanzhen Five Masters and Li Zhichang had properly divided people, detailing who would dash to the front and who would guard the back, where they would meet, and how to communicate. Also, they'd many times rehearsed the plan and so there was no chaos at the last moment. Huang Rong said, "Qiu Dao Zhang [Taoist Elder Qiu], in a situation like this a small mistake could lead to a disaster. Your honored sect has arranged everything in order, indicating a great ability. When you stage a comeback, your sect will be even more prosperous. This time we are here to look for Yang Guo so we will take our leave right now." Qiu Chuji said with surprise in his voice; "Yang Guo? Do you know if he's still here on the mountain?" With a faint smile Huang Rong replied, "We've got someone who knows his whereabouts."

Having said this, she heard the loud battle cries again from below the mountain. Huang Rong thought, "The Quanzhen sect has earlier made an arrangement. They can withdraw themselves. I came up the mountain to look for Yang Guo and get my daughter. Let's not get into the battle and delay our important matter." Immediately she bid farewell to Qiu Chuji and others, called out to those who came up the mountain with her, and rushed out to the back of the Chongyang Palace. Then she said to Li Mochou, "Li Zi Zi [Sister Li], please tell us how to get into the tomb."

Li Mochou asked, "How do you know he's inside Gu Mu? Huang Rong chuckled and said, "Even if Yang Guo isn't inside Gu Mu, the Jade Heart Manual definitely is." Li Mochou shivered and secretly thought, "This Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo] is indeed deadly. How did she know about my concern?"

Li Mochou followed this group of people from Xiangyang to Zhongnan. Except for Huang Rong, nobody paid attention to her. Along the way, there was nothing interesting and, needless to say, the Wu father and sons were secretly waiting to set a deathtrap for her. In her mind, Huang Rong thought, "Even if she likes Xiang’er very much, she won't be willing to put herself in a great danger. There surely must be an important scheme." Having mulled over this, she remembered that Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu had used the “Jade Maiden Swordplay” to defeat Jinlun Fawang. Li Mochou obviously didn't know these skills of the sect, otherwise she'd have used it. How wouldn't she be interested? She was actually going to get the Jade Heart Manual but was afraid that the seven people would get inside Gu Mu before her and take it. Huang Rong put two and two together and guessed correctly what Li Mochou was thinking.

Li Mochou thought that since Huang Rong already knew her  intention,  she  could  just  make  it  bluntly clear. She said, "I'll help you get back your daughter and you  must help me get  my sect's martial manual back. You are the Chief of the Beggar Clan and also a world-renowned heroine; you cannot say things you don't mean."

Huang Rong then said, "Yang Guo is the son of my husband Guo's deceased friend. He and I have some small misunderstandings, which will easily disappear when we see each other. If my daughter is really with him, he'll return her to me himself and there's no need to talk about baby snatching." Li Mochou retorted, "If that's the case, we'll go our own separate ways and say goodbye here." After saying that, she turned to walk away.

Huang Rong gave Wu Santong a meaningful glance. Wu Santong unsheathed his long sword and shouted, "Li Mochou, do you still think you can leave Mount Zhongnan alive today?"

Li Mochou thought that she herself was not even Huang Rong's match. Now adding the Wu father and sons, the Yelu siblings, and others, how would she be able to break her way out? Originally she had a clever plan but she ran into Huang Rong and surprisingly found her hands and feet tied, not being able to use all her sly tricks. So indifferently she said to Huang Rong, "Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo] can cleverly change. Since Yang Guo is on the mountain, why are you still worried about not finding him? Why do you need me to lead the way?"

Huang Rong knew that Li Mochou had to be forced so she said, "Little sister actually doesn't have the ability to find the entrance to Gu Mu. However, even if Yang Guo and Xiao  Longnu  have  secluded themselves inside the tomb, eventually they must come out to buy rice and cut firewood. If seven of us scatter around and wait patiently, surely we'll run into them some day." The meaning of this was that - if you were not willing to guide us, we'd immediately kill you. Finding Yang Guo a few days later was not that important.

Li Mochou thought about it. The opponents were really strong and secure. Right here on the flat land, she was overwhelmed by numbers. However, if she led these many people to the underground tomb, where she was familiar with the terrain, she could find a way to secretly kill them off one by one. So she said, "Today you won by numbers, I have nothing to say. Anyhow, I also want to find Yang Guo. Come with me!" She pushed aside prickly shrubs and walked inside the tree thickets.

Huang Rong and others followed her close behind, fearing that she would suddenly run away. She saw Li Mochou making her way through clusters of rocks. Many parts were obviously not passable, with zigzagging paths that led to a dead end. This terrain was all natural, with no human interference. So even though Huang Rong knew the "Five Phrase Marvelous Gate" art, she couldn't use its logic to figure out the way. She thought, "There is a saying 'Wonderful workmanship exceeds nature.' In fact, how could human beings ever surpass the work of nature?"

They walked for a while and then arrived at the bank of a small creek. At this time they could still hear the sounds of the Mongolian battle cries but as they were deep in the woods, the shouting sounded as if it was coming from very far away.

For several years, Li Mochou had planned to steal the Jade Heart Manual. Last time, she left the tomb from the bottom of the creek; she nearly died because she didn't know how to swim very well. Later she practiced her water skills in a river to prepare for this. She stood by the creek and said, "The main entrance to Gu Mu has been shut. To open it, you must use years and years of work. We can dive into this creek to get to the back entrance. How many people will come with me?"

Guo Fu and the Wu Brothers grew up on Peach Blossom Island. In summer, they swam in the rough sea everyday so they were excellent in water. The three people said at the same time, "I'll come!" Wu Santong could also swim. Although not very well, he wasn't worried about this small creek and said, "I'll come too."

Huang Rong thought about how cruel and cold-blooded Li Mochou was. If she suddenly turned violent on them inside Gu Mu, Wu Santong and others wouldn't be able to defend themselves. She would have gone to watch over things herself but she just gave birth not long ago and was afraid to get sick from swimming in cold water. While hesitating, Yelu Qi said, "Guo Po Mu [Auntie Guo], you stay here to keep watch. I'll go along with Uncle Wu."

Huang Rong was delighted. This person was smart and skillful. His martial skills were also strong. With him going with the four people, she could put her mind at ease. She asked, "Do you have water skills?" Yelu Qi replied, "My swimming is not very good but I can manage diving." Huang Rong thought about something and asked, "Did you practice at the bottom of the ice?" Yelu Qi replied, "Yes, I did." Again Huang Rong asked, "Where did you practice it?" Yelu Qi explained, "When I was young, I lived with my father on the banks of the Gannan River for many years." Mongolia was bitterly cold. For most of the year, the Gannan River was covered in snow and ice. Among the  Mongolian  warriors,  those  extraordinarily strong would practice ice bottom diving by setting up a rule that the  last  one  who  got  out  on  the  ice surface would be the winner.

Seeing Li Mochou and others were ready and about to go down in the creek, Huang Rong didn't have time to say much. With a low voice, she said to Guo Fu, "People's hearts are difficult to measure. Be very careful!" She taught her daughter many times but this young girl was rash by nature. Repeated warnings were useless. Only by bumping herself against the wall many times, would she then learn a lesson.

The two girls, Yelu Yan and Wanyan Ping, didn't know how to swim so they stayed ashore with Huang Rong. Li Mochou led the way. She dove in the water at a cave entrance in the creek. Yelu Qi followed her closely. Guo Fu and the Wu father and brothers trailed behind.

Li Mochou led Yelu Qi and others diving into the creek undercurrent. The path at the bottom was sometimes wide and other times narrow. The undercurrent was alternately fast and slow. The water depths also vary from very deep to the waist-level. They went underwater for a long time and then finally arrived at the tomb entrance. Li Mochou proceeded to go inside. The five people followed in a line and all thought, "If not for her leading the way, who would have thought there would be another world under the creek bottom?" By this time, although they were out of water, it was pitch black inside. The five people held hands so nobody would get lost. They then followed Li Mochou on the winding path ahead.

They walked for quite a while but sensed that they were getting to higher and dryer ground. Suddenly they heard a crunching sound. It was Li Mochou pushing open a stone door. The five people went inside and heard Li Mochou say, "We are already inside Gu Mu. Let's take a little break. Then we'll go find Yang Guo." Since entering Gu Mu, Wu Santong and Yelu Qi had stayed right behind Li Mochou's back, guarding themselves against her trickery. They couldn't even see the five fingers on their hands and had to rely on their ears, listening to everything with great attention. Guo Fu and the Wu brothers wanted to come to show their great courage but now that their eyes couldn't see a thing, they couldn't help but feel the thumping of their hearts.

Even if they used their weapons and sent out poisoned needles, they might not be able to avoid hurting their own people. Yelu Qi thought that if they let her lash out her secret weapons at random, the five of them would definitely be injured or killed. The only way out was to go forward to attack and not to give her a chance to launch her poisoned needles. Guo Fu thought the same thing. The two of them moved at the same time and threw themselves in the direction from which Li Mochou was making a noise.

Nobody could have expected this. As Li Mochou finished saying those three sentences, she took the opportunity to move quietly to another door. Yelu Qi and Guo Fu jumped out and started fighting; trying to catch each other's wrists and elbows to stop the opponent from launching secret weapons.  The  two exchanged four stances before Guo Fu felt that something didn't feel right and let out an "eh" sound. Both Yelu Qi's hands were grabbing her two wrists. He felt that the flesh and skin were smooth and could smell a whiff of sweet scent in the air. Then he heard Guo Fu's crying out and became startled.

Then they heard a crushing sound of a stone door moving. Yelu Qi and Wu Santong cried out, "Oh, no!" and rushed forward to the nearby door. But there came 'Sou''Sou' whishing sounds. Two silver needles were shot out their way. The two people sidestepped to avoid the needles while extending their hands to push the stone door. That door was already closed. Pushing against it was just like trying to move a mountain. No matter how hard they tried, it wouldn't move.

Yelu Qi reached his hand out to feel the stone door from all directions but there was neither an iron hoop nor a door handle. He followed the wall and went around the room. Then he found out that the size of this stone chamber was about twenty square feet. The four-side walls were made of rough thick stones. He drew out his long sword and knocked the stone door several times. The sounds were dull, indicating that the door was extremely heavy. This stone door could be opened from the inside and only needed to be pulled open but it was most difficult with no place to pull to begin with. Guo Fu hurriedly said, "What are we going to do? Wouldn't we suffocate to death in here?" Yelu Qi heard her voice sounding like she was about to cry so he comforted her and said, "Don't worry. Guo Fu Ren [Madame Guo] is waiting for us outside. She'll definite have a plan to help us." Then he started groping at the walls, trying to find a way out.

Having trapped Wu Santong and others inside the stone chamber, Li Mochou was extremely pleased and mused, "These people  can't get out.  Shi Mei [Apprentice  Sister] and Yang  Guo didn't know  I could swim and thought I wouldn't be able to sneak back in from the secret route. But where are they?" She knew perfectly well that, to make her wish come true, she couldn't make even a bit of noise. Otherwise if they began to fight, she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to defeat them. Therefore, she took off her shoes and only left her stockings on. She held the Soul Freezing  needles  in  both  hands  and  slowly  moved forward step-by-step.

o0o

For the past few days, Xiao Longnu had been sitting on the chilled jade bed and circulating her energy flow according to the reverse energy flow principles. One by one, they cleared the thirty six pressure points on her body. Right now the two were working on Xiao Longnu’s “Middle Altar” point. This was on her chest and a couple of inches below the “Jade Hall” point. The ancient medical text called this the “Sea of Air” because it regulated air in a human body and, as a result, was the most critical pressure point. The two people were in full concentration and didn’t dare to be careless. Xiao Longnu felt the three pressure points “Purple Palace”, “Flowery Roof”, and “Jade hall” below her neck fill with hot air. But whenever the air reached the “Middle Altar” point, it wouldn’t pass through. She knew that if she could clear this “Middle Altar” point, her body injury would be healed. But she only had to wait and couldn’t force it. Xiao Longnu by nature had never been an anxious type. Time in Gu Mu was slow. If today she couldn’t clear this pressure point, why couldn’t she wait until tomorrow? So she alternated between stopping and continuing and had no worries in the least.

Yang Guo, however, was really impatient. He only wanted Xiao Longnu to recover soon so he could set his mind at ease. But he also knew that the matter of energy transfer couldn’t be rushed. Adding the fact that they were using the reverse energy flow technique, how could it not be twice as difficult? Then he felt Xiao Longnu’s pulse on her wrist was suddenly strong and suddenly weak. Even though they were not fluctuating, it was not really a bad sign. He then slowly transferred the energy, adding more strength to it this time.

In this depth of lonely silence, he suddenly heard a ‘ta’ sound. This sound was extremely light. If not for Yang Guo’s concentrating on his breath and the blank state of his mind, he wouldn’t have heard it. A long time passed. There came another ‘ta’ sound, about three feet closer this time.

Yang Guo thought this was strange but he was afraid that he’d divert Xiao Longnu’s attention. If she was distracted in a critical moment like this, at the very least it would be very difficult for her injury to ever recover and at the very most she could be killed instantly. How could there be any small mistakes? So even though in his heart he felt something not quite right, he feigned ignorance. But only a short while later, there was another ‘ta’ sound moving three feet closer. This time he knew that someone had entered Gu Mu through the water route and that that person didn’t  dare  to  barge  in  but  just  slowly  moved forward. After another while, there came two light crunching sounds and then it stopped. These crunching sounds came from someone pushing open the stone door very, very slowly. If Xiao Long could manage to clear her “Middle Altar” point before the enemy got too near, it would be wonderfully lucky; otherwise it would be extremely dangerous. By this time they had already passed the point of no return. Even if they wanted to stop pushing the energy, they could not.

Then he heard a light ‘ta’ sound again, indicating that that person had just come one step closer. Yang Guo’s mind was frantic but he didn’t know what to do. Suddenly he felt his palm shaking and the heat energy was forced back to him because Xiao Longnu was also frightened. He quickly drew a breath and then pushed his internal energy out to Xiao Longnu’s palm. In a low voice he said, “The terrors within can’t be smelt, nor can they be seen. It is really the truth.” When one practiced martial arts to a certain limit, there would often emerge illusions, like hearing thundering cries or feeling itchy pains. One just had to know these were illusions and pay no attention to them whatsoever to avoid fire deviation. By this time, Yang Guo heard the footsteps very clearly and knew that it wasn’t just his own imagination. But Xiao Longnu was at a life or death critical moment so he had lied to her, saying that it was her mind tricking her and that no matter how fiercely evil it was, she had to ignore it and it would just disappear. As Xiao Longnu heard these words, she immediately calmed herself down.

At this time, while the sun outside was glowing red, it was actually dark like late night inside Gu Mu. Yang Guo heard every single footstep, every time several feet nearer. He thought about how in this world, except for themselves husband and wife, there were only Li Mochou and Hong Lingbo who knew about the secret path under water. So it had to be them, master and disciple, coming in. Based on Yang Guo’s martial skills, there was nothing to fear. It was only that he had to wait, not knowing for certain when the attack was coming. With this slow encroaching, he couldn’t help but feel uncertain and anxious, not knowing how to defend himself. The more the enemy came closer, the more he felt like his heart was on fire. Great dangers were approaching step by step. His hands were tied, waiting for death. Beads of sweat slowly seeped out on his forehead. He thought, “On that day Guo Fu cut my arm off, despite the pain, at least the sword strike was swift. Being forced to endure a slow blow like this was actually much worse.”

After another while, Xiao Longnu also heard the sound quite clearly and knew in her heart that it was not just an illusion. As danger was nearing, she wanted to increase the tempo of her inner air, pushing to clear her “Middle Altar” point. But her mind was slightly disturbed, causing her energy flow to go forwards and backwards and almost back up from her chest. And during this time, she heard light footsteps. Then suddenly from the door came ‘sou…sou’ whishing sounds of four Soul Freezing Needles being shot her way.

At this moment Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were no different than average people with no martial skills whatsoever. Luckily, the two of them were prepared. Hearing the poisoned needles shot their way, they dropped backwards at the same time, without separating their palms. The four needles swiftly passed the sides of their faces. Li Mochou still hadn’t figured out that they were circulating energy to heal an injury so she was afraid that they would counter-attack. So she immediately leapt backwards after sending out the poisoned needles. If she hadn’t been afraid and followed up with another four needles, it would have been difficult for the two people to avoid getting hit.

Li Mochou only vaguely saw the two people sitting side by side on the Chilled Jade Bed. Missing her first strike, she herself was now quite worried. Seeing that Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu didn’t get up to fight back, she still didn’t understand but instead stepped back to the nearby stone door. With a fly whisk in her hand, she coldly said, “The two of you have been well since we last met!”

Yang Guo asked, “What do you want?” Li Mochou retorted, “How is it you don’t know what I want?” Yang Guo continued, “You want the Jade Heart Manual, is that it?  We’ve  secluded ourselves inside  Gu Mu, staying away from the outside world. Just go and take it.” Li Mochou didn’t know if she should believe him or not so she said, “Bring it!”

This Jade Heart Manual was engraved on the wall in another stone chamber. Yang Guo thought, “I’ll just tell her the truth. The manual was obscure. Let her learn it by slowly pondering over it. We only need some more time for Gu Gu to clear her “Middle Altar” point. At that point, how would killing her be difficult?” But right now Xiao Longnu’s pulses were wildly fluctuating and so she was leaning on Yang Guo, not saying anything.

Li Mochou widened her eyes to observe the two people carefully. In a dark blur, she saw Xiao Longnu stretching her palms out against Yang Guo’s. Her thoughts moved and then she immediately understood, “Yang Guo’s arm injury was heavy. And this little person was helping him healing the wound with her internal energy. I’ve arrived at the crucial moment during the energy transfer. If I don’t kill them both today, how would I have such a good opportunity like this afterwards?” Even though her deduction was only half right, the fear in her heart immediately disappeared. She jumped up and, with the fly whisk, bore down on top of Xiao Longnu.

Feeling a whiff of strong wind coming down on her and stirring up her neat hair, Xiao Longnu closed her eyes for the coming death. But Yang Guo opened his mouth and  blew  a  gust  of  energy  towards  Li Mochou’s face. At this time his whole body strength was channeled to help Xiao Longnu’s clearing her pressure point so the force of air sent out from his mouth was not very strong. But seeing Xiao Longnu in a dangerous situation, he had to blow out air to disturb the enemy.

Li Mochou knew perfectly well that Yang Guo was full of tricks. But as she felt the heat licking her face, she was startled and leapt backwards a foot. After being defeated by Huang Rong’s wisdom, she’d always been extra careful everywhere, not being rash in trying to hurt the enemy but protecting her own body first. But after leaping back, her face felt nothing unusual. She then shouted, “You want to die?”

With a laugh Yang Guo said, “The other day I loaned you a robe, have you come today to return it?” Li Mochou thought about the time she fiercely fought with the blacksmith Feng Mofeng and the clothes on her body were burned by the red-hot huge iron hammer. If not for Yang Guo’s robe covering her body, she would have been shamefully distressed. Reasonably speaking, today she couldn’t take the two people’s lives. But after another consideration, she changed her mind. A moment of soft feelings like this would cause her to forever worry about them afterwards. She straightened up her body and slapped out her left palm.

Even in the face of this calamity, Yang Guo still fought for wisdom. He thought about how earlier he and Xiao Longnu were joking. He once said if both his arms had been cut off, she would have had to hold the soles of his feet instead. Then he heard the sound of wind made by a palm as Li Mochou’s “Five Poisons Divine Palm” arrived. He had no time to think it over so he immediately lowered his head and lifted his feet up. At the same time he kicked out both feet to get rid of the shoes. He shouted, “Long’er, grab my feet!” and then wielded his left palm. With a ‘Pa’ sound, his palm  made  contact  with  Li  Mochou’s. Originally he’d passed his whole body strength through Xiao Longnu and right now the energy level was suddenly dropping. He forced out the energy again while matching Li Mochou’s palm. All this while, Xiao Longnu was holding his right foot.

As Li Mochou suddenly saw Yang Guo’s strange posture, she couldn’t help being startled. But then she remembered the other day Yang Guo was fighting her own “Three Without Three Without Hands” strikes and no matter how he tried, he couldn’t beat them. So she immediately increased the palm strength, trying to finish off Yang Guo. Years ago, when she’d used this “Five Poisoned Divine Palm” to slaughter the entire Lu Family, the palm was already incredibly fierce. Now that she had cultivated strength over the years, it became most violent and evil. As Yang Guo sensed the heat passing through his palm, he didn’t resist. Instead he added his own strength and passed the energy on to Xiao Longnu’s body.

As it turned out, Li Mochou and Yang Guo’s combined strength was  helping  Xiao  Longnu  clear  her pressure point. Li Mochou’s strategic moves were quite inferior to the Yang-Long couple but speaking of cultivated energy, hers was far deeper than theirs. Suddenly receiving such strong energy, Xiao Longnu felt the energy push vigorously through her “Middle Altar” point and that heat filled up her abdomen. Her spirits lifted and she called out, “Wonderful, many thanks to Shi Zi [Apprentice Elder Sister]!” She let go of Yang Guo’s right foot and leapt down from the Chilled Jade Bed.

Li Mochou was surprised. She thought Xiao Longnu was helping Yang Guo heal his injury. So she lashed out her palm strength, thinking to use this opportunity to shock Yang Guo’s energy  flow.  She  hadn’t expected that she would be helping the enemy instead. Delighted, Yang Guo turned his body around and stood there barefoot. With a laugh he said, “If not for you rushing in to help, your Shi Mei [Apprentice Younger Sister] wouldn’t have been able to clear her “Middle Altar” point this easily.” Li Mochou hesitated and didn’t answer. Suddenly Xiao Longnu let out an ‘Ah’ sound. Holding her chest, she dropped down on the Chilled Jade Bed. With a start Yang Guo asked, “What is it?” Xiao Longnu panted, “Her, her, her palm was poisonous.”

By now Yang Guo also felt dizzy in his head and realized that when Li Mochou used her “Five Poisons Divine Palm,” she sent out the poisons from her palm. By matching palms with her, not only had the poisons entered his body, they also passed on to Xiao Longnu’s.

Yang Guo lifted his black iron sword and shouted, “Quickly take out the antidote!” and chopped down his sword. Li Mochou lifted her fly whisk to protect herself. And with a clang, the fly whisk forged from fine steel broke into two pieces. With its supple strength, this fly whisk had defeated who-knows-how-many great heroes in the world. But now that it was chopped and broken like it’d never been before, she was frightened to the core and hurriedly leapt out of the stone chamber. Yang Guo lifted his sword to pursue and wielded out his left arm. He saw that Li Mochou couldn’t hold herself against this sword. But all of a sudden the poisons in his body acted up and he saw stars before his eyes. His arm went limp and painful, with no strength left, with a ‘Dang’ sound, the black iron sword dropped down on the floor.

Li Mochou didn’t dare to stop. She fled ten feet ahead and then eventually turned her head back, only to see Yang Guo was shaking violently with his hand against the wall. She thought, “This boy’s martial skills are extremely strange. I’ll wait for a bit for the poisons to bring him down. Then I’ll approach.”

Yang Guo’s throat was dry and painful. His head felt swollen and aching. He immediately passed strength to his left arm and waited for Li Mochou to come forward. Just one strike would kill her and his palm was holding firm the handle of the black iron sword. Li Mochou became frightened again and didn’t dare to approach recklessly. By her calculation, she’d stay where she couldn’t be defeated. And she stood there, carefully observing any change.

Yang Guo thought that if it dragged on like this, the poisons in his and Xiao Longnu’s body would become stronger. With this delay, the enemy would have the upper hand. So he took a deep breath and circulated his internal flow. When the dizziness stopped, he grasped the handle of the black iron sword and stood up. He extended his arm to hold Xiao Longnu’s waist and bellowed, “Make way!” and went out in big strides. Seeing his confident air, Li Mochou didn’t dare to stop him.

Yang Guo only wanted to get into another stone chamber and close the door so Li Mochou couldn’t follow in. Xiao Longnu had already cleared her pressure points and, in another while, the two of them could force out the poisons in their bodies. This matter was actually a hundred times easier than clearing the pressure points. When Yang Guo was young and was poisoned by  Li  Mochou’s  needles,  Ouyang  Feng taught him how to expel the poisons. At present the two of them had internal energy like this so getting rid of the poisons was really not difficult.

Li Mochou also knew his intention. How could she allow the two people to begin driving out the poisons? She didn’t dare to attack and only kept following them from a safe distance, always five feet away from Yang Guo. When Yang Guo stood there and waited for her to  come.  She  also  merely  stood  there motionless.

In his chest, the more Yang Guo’s heart beat, the fiercer the poisons became. He felt as if his heart would spill out of his mouth and couldn’t really support himself again.  He  unsteadily  dashed  into  a  stone chamber and put Xiao Longnu down on a tabletop. He propped  himself  against  the  table  and  loudly gasped for breath. He knew perfectly well that Li Mochou would follow shortly  after  but  didn’t  pay attention. After a little while, he then realized that they’d arrived at the coffin chamber. And the table, that he was propping himself against and that he was just placed Xiao Longnu’s body on, was really a stone coffin.

At the time Li Mochou was a disciple of the sect, she’d lived here at Gu Mu for quite a long time. And even though her knowledge of Gu Mu secret matters was inferior to the Yang-Long couple’s, she could see clearly that there were five stone coffins in the chamber. At the bottom of one of the coffins was a door to the secret path, from where she came in. She thought, “Are you thinking about escaping from here? This time it may not be so easy.”

Of the three people, one was sitting; one was standing; and the other was leaning against another. At this time, only the sounds of Yang Guo’s heavy breathings could be heard. Yang Guo’s body swayed several times. And with a clanking sound, the black iron sword dropped to the floor. Then he tumbled down Xiao Longnu’s body. His hand threw out something. A ‘Pa’ sound was heard as that thing flew into an empty coffin. He called out, “Li Mochou, I can’t let this Jade Heart Manual fall into your hands. Aiyo…” With a long miserable cry, he became motionless.”

There were five stone coffins in this chamber. Three of them contained the bodies of Lin Chaoying, her disciple, and Sun Po Po [Grandma Sun]. The other two were actually empty. Of these two, one was a door to the secret passage and its lid was left two feet open so people could come in and go out. The other coffin’s lid was left open just a little. As Li Mochou saw Yang Guo throw the “Jade Heart Manual” in this empty coffin, she was pleasantly surprised. But she was still afraid that it would be a trick. Another while passed and he was still motionless. So she bent down to feel his cheek. It was icy cold, meaning he was already dead. With a loud ‘Ha-Ha’ she said, “Little rascal, even with all your wickedness you also have failed today!” Then she stretched out her hand into the coffin to get the manual.

But Yang Guo had thrown the “manual” into the other end of the coffin. Li Mochou’s fly whisk had earlier been broken; otherwise she could have used it to sweep it out. She used her arm to grope at it twice but still couldn’t grab it. So she shrank her body and got into the empty stone coffin through this foot-wide opening. She crawled inside the stone coffin to the other end and finally grabbed the “manual.” Her hand then felt something not very wonderful. The manual appeared to be a shoe.

And by this time, Yang Guo lifted his body up. His left arm dashed out to the front, using the tip of the black iron sword to push the coffin lid. He sent out a ferocious force and the coffin lid was perfectly closed, trapping Li Mochou inside the coffin!

From the beginning, Li Mochou didn’t know that the “Jade Heart Manual” was actually carved on the ceiling of a stone chamber and always thought it was a book. Yang Guo pretended to cry out in misery, throwing himself on Xiao Longnu’s body. At the same time, he quickly took off his shoe and threw it into the empty coffin. A soft object landing on a stone sounded just like it was a book. After throwing in the shoe, he immediately reversed his energy flow and turned himself stiff like he was dead. In fact, even if he’d died of poisons, his body wouldn’t have turned icy cold in the blink of an eye like this. When a man’s pulse stopped, it would actually take at least half an hour for his whole body to lose all the heat. Li Mochou was so happy that she lost her power of observation. This plan of his was extremely dangerous. If Li Mochou didn’t care if he’d actually died or not and struck his head with her “Five Poisons Divine Palm” to guarantee his death, his playing dead would unavoidably change into real death. But he was in a desperate situation so he took a desperate measure, hoping for some luck. To his surprise, it was actually a success.

To push a coffin lid, Yang Guo passed the strength to his left arm and then used his heavy sword to lift it up. Then he shouted, “Up!” and the other empty coffin was raised. A thundering ‘Peng’ sound followed and the coffin crushed down on top of the first coffin. This coffin and lid together weighed six hundred catties at least. Adding the bamboo top on the lid, it was extremely secure, with a perfect seam. Even if Li Mochou’s martial skills were high, there was no way she could get out in any case.

After being poisoned, Yang Guo’s heart was beating fast and his head was hurting. But as they were facing a great enemy, he couldn’t allow himself to be dizzy and entirely relied  on  his  fierce  determination  to sustain himself. Having used the sword twice to push the coffins, his mind was tired and his strength depleted. He flung down the black iron sword and struggled to walk over to Xiao Longnu’s side. Using the method of Ouyang Feng, he first drove out most of the poisons in his body. Then he reached out his hand to match Xiao Longnu’s and helped her get rid of the poisons.

o0o

Guo Fu, Yelu Qi, and the others were trapped in the stone chamber. These people entered the secret passage from the bottom of the creek and the fire kits they carried inside were all soaked and hence difficult to catch fire. They groped around in darkness. How could they possibly find a way out? The five people were at their wits’ end so they just sat there idly on the floor.

Wu Santong was incessantly cursing Li Mochou’s treacherously evil trick. Guo Fu, who was already extremely anxious, heard Wu Santong’s non-stop scolding and became agitated. She couldn’t bear to keep her mouth shut and so she said, “Wu Bobo [Uncle Wu], you knew before that Li Mochou was treacherous and evil, how come you didn’t guard against her? What use is cursing when the damage is done?” Wu Santong was startled and couldn’t say anything in response.

Since the Wu brothers had met Guo Fu again, each was sick at heart. While with the Yelu siblings and Wanyan Ping, everybody was having a good time together but they didn’t really have a chance to talk to Guo Fu directly. This time Wu Xiuwen heard her snapping at his father. He couldn’t bear it and said, “We came to Gu Mu to help your little sister and unfortunately met with a disaster. Everybody is about to perish together and you still let out your lady’s temper...” He was about to continue but then Wu Dunru called out, “Di di! [younger brother!]” This time Wu Xiuwen shut up. He spoke out of irritation. But after the words were uttered, he even greatly  surprised  himself.  He’d  always  complied  with  Guo  Fu’s  every wish and in no way would dare to cross her in the slightest. Who would have thought that today he would unexpectedly rebuke her in a severe tone like this?

Guo Fu was also startled. She was going to back talk but couldn’t think of anything to say. She thought about how she would definitely die a sad death inside Gu Mu and from now on wouldn’t be able to see her parents again. Her heart was aching. In the darkness nobody could see anything  so  she  let  out  a whimpering cry. Hearing her crying, Wu Xiuwen felt sorry and said, “Okay, what I said was wrong. I apologize.” Guo Fu sobbed, “What good is an apology?” and cried even harder. She pulled up a piece of cloth that was by her hand to blow her nose. Then she realized that she was leaning against someone’s leg and the cloth she used to wipe her nose was shockingly that person’s gown.

Guo Fu was alarmed and hurriedly sat up. She heard Wu Santong and his sons speaking and knew that the three people weren’t by her side. That left only Yelu Qi who had been keeping silent. So the person naturally was him. Her face reddened and she babbled, “I...”

Yelu Qi suddenly said, “Listen, what is that sound?” The four people tilted their heads to listen but couldn’t hear anything. Yelu Qi said, “Hmm, it is a baby crying. Guo Guniang [Miss Guo] that must be your little sister.” This sound traveled through a stone wall and was particularly feeble. If not for his cultivated internal strength that heightened his aural senses, he wouldn’t have been able to hear it. As he got up and walked a few steps, the crying sound immediately weakened. He figured out, “Since the baby’s cry can pass through, this stone chamber must have a ventilation space.” Immediately he concentrated on listening, trying to identify where the cry came from.

He walked a few steps to the west, the crying sound slightly weakened. He turned back to the east, the crying was louder. Then he dashed towards the northeast and heard the sound quite clearly. So he walked to the northeast corner and extended his sword to hit the stone wall lightly. The ‘kong-kong-kong’ sounds were slightly different as if the wall there was especially thin. He sheathed his sword and used both palms to push out against the stones but nothing moved. He took a deep breath and sent his strength to both palms, using the “stick” technique. The strength was sent out, making a crashing sound. That stone chunk was indeed drawn out by the strength of his palm and fell on the ground.

Guo Fu and the others were pleasantly surprised. They cheered out loud in one  voice  and  scrambled forwards to pull out three chunks of stone. This  time a  body  could  pass  through and  the  people  got out one by one. Following the sound, they entered a small stone chamber. In the darkness, Guo Fu heard that baby crying out extremely loudly and stretched her hand out to hug her immediately.

This baby was of course Guo Xiang. As Yang Guo was helping Xiao Longnu to clear her pressure points and also fighting with Li Mochou, he missed the baby’s feeding time, causing her to cry out fiercely. Guo Fu did all she could to coax the baby, both patting and rocking her. But Guo Xiang, with someone holding her, cried even harder. Guo Fu ran out of patience and gave her to Wu Santong. She said, “Wu Bobo [Uncle Wu], please take a look what’s wrong with her.”

Yelu Qi traced his hand on a table and found a candle, along with a knife and flint. He immediately lit the candle. These people had been in the gloomy darkness for a very long time. Now there was light. They were all overjoyed and cried out in delight.

Wu Santong actually had sons. Hearing Guo Xiang crying like this, he knew that she was hungry. On the table, he saw the fine bee honey water and a small wood-carved spoon so he scooped up the honey water to feed her. As it passed through her mouth, Guo Xiang stopped crying as expected. Yelu Qi laughed and said, “If not for little Miss Guo’s crying out from hunger, I’m afraid we’d all have died  in  that  stone chamber.”

Wu Santong bitterly said, “We’d better go find Li Mochou.” Then each person broke off the legs of the table and chairs and lit the fire to make torches to be used on their way. At every corner, Wu Dunru used his sword tip to make a mark for fear that they would get lost on their way back.

As the five people entered a room, there was also another room. They raised their torches to search for Li Mochou’s traces and saw that this ancient tomb was gigantic, with winding corridors and great many rooms. All were endlessly amazed. Nobody could have expected that a magnificent construction like this would be hidden above a small mountain creek. Then they entered Xiao Longnu’s bed chamber and saw several “Soul Freezing Needles” lying on the floor. Guo Fu wrapped her hand with a piece of cloth and picked up two needles. She said, “This time I will return these poisoned needles to the evil witch.”

o0o

As Yang Guo used his internal energy to help Xiao Longnu expel the poisons, he saw dark liquid slowly seeping out from the five fingertips on her left hand. It would take a while to remove  all  the  poison. Suddenly he heard the sound of footsteps coming from the corridor. There were five people coming in total. Yang Guo was secretly startled and thought that the enemy always came to attack at every critical moment. Li Mochou alone had been difficult enough. How would he deal with five people? Xiao Longnu had just cleared her pressure points and her internal energy was weak. If the poisons weren’t driven out immediately, they were bound to enter her pressure points  and  spread  out.  Suddenly  he  saw  lights flashing from the distance. Those five people were moving closer. Yang Guo then reached out his arm to carry Xiao Longnu and then jumped onto the empty coffin that was on top of Li Mochou. He pushed open the coffin lid with his palm.

The two people were hiding in the coffin when Yelu Qi and the others came in. Seeing that there were five coffins in the room, the five people became startled, faintly feeling that this was too big a coincidence and a bad omen. Guo Fu couldn’t bear it and said, “Hmmph, there are five of us here and there are five coffins!”

Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu inside the stone coffin heard Guo Fu’s voice. Puzzled, they thought, “How come she’s here?” Yang Guo’s left hand had never left Xiao Longnu’s palm, still forcing out the poisons. He heard that Guo Fu was among the five people. Even though surprised, he was relieved, thinking that she wouldn’t dare to take advantage of someone in a precarious situation. So he said nothing and kept concentrating on sending out his energy to expel the poisons.

Yelu Qi already heard the breathing sound from the stone coffin and thought it was Li Mochou who hid in there with a devious trick. This time he wouldn’t be  fooled  again and  so he  immediately made  a hand signal, calling the four people to surround the coffin. Guo Fu noticed that the coffin lid and the coffin itself were not aligned and she could see the hem of a gown through the crack. She concluded that it was Li Mochou hiding in there. She laughed and thought, “I’m going to pay you back in your own coin!” She used her energy to push the coffin lid with her left palm and then fiercely shot out the  two “Soul  Freezing Needles”.

These two needles were sent out at close range. Also, there was no room in the coffin to move aside. The Yang Long couple cried out in surprise, “Ayo!” One needle hit Yang Guo’s right leg while the other struck Xiao Longnu’s left shoulder.

Having sent out the needles, Guo Fu was very pleased with herself. But then  she  actually  heard  the surprised cries from a man and a woman inside the coffin. Her heart jumped and she also let out an ‘Ayo’ cry. Yelu Qi kicked out his left leg. There came a crashing sound while the coffin lid fell down on the floor. Trembling, Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu stood up. Under the torch lights, the two people’s faces were pale as they sadly looked at each other.

Guo Fu didn’t know that this time she herself had created a bigger disaster than cutting off Yang Guo’s arm and only felt slightly sorry. She said apologetically, “Yang Da ge [Big Brother Yang], Long Zi Zi [Elder Sister Long], little sister didn’t know it was you two and accidentally shot out the needles. Luckily, my mother has the antidote to this poison. Years ago, my pet eagles were injured by Li Mochou’s needles and it was mother who cured them. Why were you hiding inside the coffin? Who would have thought it was the two of you?”

She thought about how she herself had cut off Yang Guo’s arm and how he’d bent her sword. She figured that they were about even. Let alone the fact that her mother had already scolded her vehemently for this. She mused, “I didn’t come to blame you. That should be enough.” She’d always had the upper hand since childhood. Others looked up to her parents and always gave in to her. Therefore, she only thought about herself and didn’t take other people into consideration. Speaking in retrospect, the Yang-Long couple was not supposed to be hiding in the coffin and therefore gave her a fright. She would not have thought that at the time Xiao Longnu was hit by the silver needle, the poisons inside her body had just stopped flowing out. Suddenly she was violently hit like this, the poisons from the “Five Poisons Divine Palm” all flew backwards, entering the major pressure points on her whole body. This time even if there were a divine pill of immortality, there wouldn’t have been a way to save her. Li Mochou’s silver needle inflicted no more than a flesh wound and, with a proper treatment, one could be cured. However, the poisons inside her were severe beyond reason.

Xiao Longnu was still for a moment but then she felt as if her chest was empty like there was nothing inside and her heart went missing. Then she turned her head to look at Yang Guo and saw in his eyes heartache, a combination of grief and indignation. His whole body was trembling. He looked  as  if  the lifetime of sadness and abuse all came out at this time. Xiao Longnu couldn’t bear to see him bitter and miserable like this so she gently said, “Guo’er, our destiny is like this. Let’s not resent other people. Don’t be so bitter.” She then stretched out her hand to pull out the silver needle from his leg and then later the other poisoned needle from her shoulder. Unlike the “Five Poisons Divine Palm”  that  Li  Mochou  had created herself, the “Soul Freezing Needles” were passed on by her ancestor master and so she carried the antidote with her. She gave Yang Guo one grain and she herself took another. Filled with immense hatred, Yang Guo made a sound and spat out the antidote onto the ground.

Guo Fu angrily said, “Ayo, very big of you. Is this to say I came here to harm you on purpose? I did apologize and that should be enough. What’s with the temper? They were only two small needles. What’s a big deal?” Wu Santong saw the sad expression on Yang Guo’s face gradually concealed and replaced by a rising anger. He also saw him picking up the shiny big black sword from the ground. Knowing something was not right, he quickly went forward and coaxed, “Yang Xiong di [Brother Yang], please don’t be upset. The five of us were trapped inside a stone chamber by Li Mochou and escaped with great difficulty. Guo Guniang [Miss Guo] was rash, mistaking ”

Guo Fu butted in, “What? Was I rash? You yourself also thought it was Li Mochou. If not, why haven’t you said something?” Wu Santong eyed Yang Guo and then looked at Guo Fu, not knowing how to appease them.

Xiao Longnu took out another grain of antidote and in a low voice she said, “Guo’er, take the antidote. Don’t you listen to my words anymore?” Hearing Xiao Longnu’s gentle urge, Yang Guo opened his mouth and swallowed. He thought about how the two of them wrestled with life and death with difficulty for the last few days and how finally it was all for nothing. He couldn’t bear it any longer and suddenly knelt down to loudly cry on the stone coffin.

Wu Santong and the others looked at one another in blank dismay. All were thinking that he had always been extremely strong and full of spirit. How come today, after being hit by just a small needle, he was weeping so bitterly like this?

Xiao Longnu reached out her hand to stroke Yang Guo’s hair and said, “Guo’er, you tell them to go. I don’t like them in here.” The plain sentence “I don’t like them in here” contained all her hatred and resentment.

Yang Guo stood up. His eyes began with Guo Fu and then scanned the people one by one. Even though he was extremely angry and hateful, he eventually realized that Guo Fu’s launching the silver needles was an inadvertent mistake. Except blaming her for being rash, he couldn’t say she was wrong. Let alone the fact that even if he used the sword to split her open, he still wouldn’t be able to save Xiao Longnu’s life. He picked up his sword with rage in his eyes. Suddenly he raised his black iron heavy sword and there came a thundering sound and flying sparks. Surprisingly he only chopped the stone coffin they were hiding in earlier into two sections. This strike was executed not only out of male strength, but also out of bottomless grief and indignation.

Seeing his strike to be this incredibly powerful, Guo Fu and the others couldn’t help becoming startled. They saw with their own eyes how thick and heavy the coffin was. It was chiseled from granite. To break it into two pieces, a stone mason using a big axe to cut it for half a day still wouldn’t be able to do it. If Yang Guo had used a large mountain-cutting axe or a thick machete, it might have been conceivable. But long swords were originally light and quick weapons, which were treasured for their sharp blades. If colliding with a solid stone like this, they would immediately snap. Who would have thought that this sword could cut through a stone like it was clay. As soon as the blade dropped, the coffin broke.

Yang Guo saw the five people looking at each other in alarm. He then fiercely bellowed, “What did you come here for?” Wu Santong answered, “Yang Xiong di [Brother Yang], we followed Guo Fu ren [Madame Guo] to come look for you.”

Yang Guo angrily retorted, “You came here to bring back her daughter, didn’t you? To get this little baby, you were willing to kill my dear wife.”

Wu Santong was startled and said, “Kill your dear wife? Ah, that is Long Guniang [Miss Long].” Then he noticed that Xiao Longnu was wearing a bridal gown and immediately understood. He quickly said, “Your wife was hit by a poisoned needle. Guo Fu ren [Madame Guo]’s got the antidote. She is just outside.”

Yang Guo made a spitting sound and shouted, “You people came in to cause ruckus like this, the poisons in her body turned to attack all her major pressure points. What would Guo Fu ren [Madame Guo] do? Does she have the skill to bring back the dead?”

Wu Santong owed Yang Guo for saving his sons and therefore was extremely respectful of him. Although hearing him lashing out an accusation like this, he didn’t think to be defiant in the least bit. He only mumbled, “The poisons turned to attack all her major pressure points. This is not good.”

From the side, Guo Fu was getting mad. She heard Yang Guo speaking disrespectfully of her mother and flew into a rage. She shouted, “What has my mother done to you? At the time you were young, you were homeless. Wasn’t it my mother who sheltered you? She fed you. You… Hmmph.. Instead, you turned out to be ungrateful and stole my little sister.” By this time, she already knew that even though her sister fell into Yang Guo’s hand, he had no evil intention. But as she was in a verbal fight with him, she didn’t think about what could or couldn’t be said and brought up this issue.

Yang Guo sneered and said, “Right, today I am ungrateful. You said I stole this child. I’ll take her and never return her. How will you catch me?” Guo Fu tightened her left arm and firmly held her little sister. With her right arm, she raised the torch high to block the front part of her body.

Wu Santong anxiously said, “Yang Xiong di [Brother Yang], your wife has been poisoned. We must soon detoxify the poisons…”

Yang Guo bitterly responded, “Wu Xiong [Brother Wu], it’s useless.” Suddenly he let out a long, loud roar and sent out his right sleeve. Guo Fu and the others all sensed a gust of wind blowing their way and their faces felt burning hot and painful like being scraped by a blade. The five torches were blown out and so the place immediately turned pitch black. They gave out a loud ‘Ayo!’ cry. Yelu Qi was afraid that Yang Guo would hurt her so he jumped forward, only to hear Guo Xiang’s wailing from outside of the stone chamber. They were all alarmed. The wailing sound was already 20 or30 feet away. They were moving fast, just like spirits.

Guo Fu cried out, “He snatched my little sister.” Wu Santong called out, “Yang Xiong di [Brother Yang]… Long Guniang [Miss Long]! Yang Xiong di…Long Guniang!” But there was no one to answer him. They had no light and in the darkness couldn’t see what was going on.

Yelu Qi said, “We must get out of here quickly. Don’t let him close us in here.”

Wu Santong indignantly said, “Yang Xiong di [Brother Yang] was very kind and very righteous, why did he do this?”

Guo Fu retorted, “His being kind and righteous... We should go quickly. What are we waiting here for?” Having said those few words, she suddenly heard two ‘ka-ka’ sounds from inside a stone coffin. And since the sounds were muffled by the coffin lid, they appeared really melancholy.

“There’s a ghost!” Guo Fu screamed, pulling Yelu Qi’s arm which was nearby. Wu Santong and the others clearly heard that the sounds came from inside the coffin as if a corpse was scrambling to get out. In the darkness, everybody was absolutely terrified.

Yelu Qi said to Wu Santong in a low voice, “Wu Shushu [Uncle Wu], you stay here. I’ll go over there. If a corpse comes out, we’ll use our four palms to beat him to pulp. Then he grasped Guo Fu by her wrist and pulled her to stand behind his body for fear that the ghost would harm people.

Then they heard a sudden sound of something flying out of the coffin. Wu Santong and Yelu Qi had earlier prepared to send out their energy. As they heard the whooshing sound, they lashed out their strikes. When the two people’s hands made contact with that thing, they together cried out,  “Wretched!”  What  they actually hit was a chunk of long stone, which was laid in the coffin as a stone pillow. The two people used their whole strength in the attack. As that stone chunk was fiercely hit, it dropped onto the stone coffin and smashed it into flying fragments. The stone pillow itself split into several pieces. At the same time, there was another whooshing sound of something flying past them. Wu Santong and Yelu Qi were about to raise their palms to attack again but that thing had already floated away from them. They heard a ‘hei-hei’ cold laugh and then immediately came a bleak silence.

“Li Mochou!” Wu Santong said with a start. Guo Fu cried out, “No that was the corpse! How would Li Mochou be inside the coffin?” Yelu Qi let out a groan with his mouth hanging open. He didn’t believe that there were ghosts in the world but to think that it was Li Mochou was actually quite unreasonable. Obviously she and he came in together while Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu had actually been inside Gu Mu for many days. How could she be right under the Yang Long couple’s coffin? Wu Santong said, “Then where has Li Mochou gone to?” Yelu Qi said, “Everything inside the tomb is becoming weird. Let us get out of here first.” Guo Fu asked, “What should we do about my little sister?” Wu Santong then said, “We ran into a dead end but your mother will surely have a great plan. Let’s go out and ask her what to do.” So the people searched for the way out and returned to the mountain creek. From under the water, all they saw was red. The woods on both sides of the creek had caught fire and hot steam was attacking them. Horrified, Guo Fu called out, “Ma, Ma!” but didn’t hear any reply. Suddenly on the bank a big burning tree toppled down. Yelu Qi pulled her up and quickly jumped upstream, just in time to dodge the danger. It was deep winter at this time of year and all the plants were dried out and withering. So the mountain became a sea of fire. Even though the five people were soaked in the middle of the creek, the big fires were encroaching and their faces felt boiling hot.

Wu Santong said, “The Mongolian army must have been attacking the Chongyang Palace. They suffered defeat and then set fire to the mountain to vent their anger.

Guo Fu worriedly cried out: “Ma…Ma! Where are you?” Suddenly on the left side of the creek she saw a woman’s figure skipping around to avoid the flames. “Ma, Ma! She cried out in delight and jumped up from the water to rush ahead. “Be careful!” Wu Santong called out after her and there suddenly came chaotic ‘ka-la’ sounds. Two big trees fell down, blocking his view.

Guo Fu rushed through the smoke and fire. At this time she was still in the water. First she thought about her mother. Second, she just came out of the darkness inside Gu Mu and into the sudden brightness. Her eyes couldn’t adjust and so she couldn't see things very clearly. As she got closer, she then realized that the back side of that figure didn’t seem right. She became nervous. And when that person turned her body around it was, unexpectedly, Li Mochou.

Earlier Li Mochou was trapped under the stone coffin by Yang Guo and had no way to get out. But afterwards Yang Guo struck the top coffin out of anger, causing the coffin lid below to also crack. She therefore escaped death by throwing out the stone pillow and leaping out after it.

Even though she was confined inside the coffin for less than an hour, she got a taste of what it was like being suffocated to death inside a coffin, which was truly the most painful and miserable situation. During this short period of time, she clenched her jaws, detesting every living person in the world. She thought to herself, “After I die, I must become an evil spirit. I will kill Yang Guo, Xiao Longnu, Wu Santong, Huang Rong ” Not discriminating who it was, all she wanted was to kill everybody. Although she could escape

by luck later, the hatred in her heart was actually not lightened. Suddenly seeing Guo Fu, she let out a smile and gently said, “Guo Guniang [Miss Guo], it’s you. The fires are burning with such ferocity. You must be careful.”

Guo Fu saw her friendly expression and was quite relieved. So she asked, “Did you see my mother?” Li Mochou moved a few steps closer and pointed to the left. She said, “She went that way, didn’t she?” Guo Fu looked towards the direction she just pointed. Li Mochou suddenly closed in and reached out to seal a pressure point below her waist. With a laugh she said, “Don’t worry. Your mother will come to look for you.” She saw that the fires were nearing from all directions. If she was delayed again, her own life would be in danger. She jumped up and took off towards the west. Guo Fu was left paralyzed on the ground, only hearing the chilling sound of Li Mochou’s singing from behind the violent flames. She sang, “I ask the world. What is this love that makes people live and die for?”

The singing gradually faded away and the wind suddenly blew a thick plume of smoke, enveloping Guo Fu. She couldn’t move her limbs and so, choking in the smoke, she coughed loudly. The Wu father and sons and Yelu Qi were standing midstream, with burning ashes falling on their heads. Between the small creek and Guo Fu was a raging fire twenty feet high. They knew perfectly well that Guo Fu was in imminent danger but if they were to go in and rescue her, they would only accompany her in death and so they couldn’t come up with a plan to save her.

In the smoke Guo Fu was disoriented and about to faint. She was so frightened that she couldn’t even cry out. Suddenly she heard someone’s shouting from the east side so she turned her head, only to see a whirlwind that wrapped around a gray shadow coming towards her. Wherever the spinning wind passed through, the fire would split open into two sections. That whirlwind reached her in just a short while. The shadow inside was of course Yang Guo. Guo Fu originally thought it was someone coming to rescue her and was delighted. But then she clearly saw that it was actually Yang Guo. Even though it was broiling hot outside, in her heart she felt as if she was drenched with cold water. She thought to herself, “I’m about to die and now he had to come to ridicule and humiliate me.” After all she was the daughter of Guo Jing and Huang Rong so she just viciously stared at Yang Guo and surprisingly was not afraid in the least bit.

Yang Guo rushed to her side and thrust out his sword. It was placed at the area below her waist. “Be careful!” He shouted and wielded out his left arm. With his vigorous internal energy sending through the black iron sword, Guo Fu felt like she was riding a cloud while flying away in midair. She went over ten big trees that were burning and sending flames into the sky. And then with a splash, she fell into the creek. Yelu Qi quickly rushed forward to support her and unseal her pressure point. Guo Fu was confused and disoriented. And after a while, she was weeping like a baby.

When Yang Guo first brought Xiao Longnu and Guo Xiang out of the tomb they saw the Mongolian soldiers setting fire to the mountain. The Yang-Long couple had spent a great many years together among these big trees and flowers. Suddenly seeing the fires, they felt great pain and regret. But the army was big and powerful and they had no way to fight them. Yang Guo didn’t know how long Xiao Longnu would last after the poisons had entered her major pressure points so he found a small cave covered with thatches to hide in temporarily.

A short while passed. From the distance they saw Guo Fu hurt by Li Mochou and the raging fires were about to burn her body. Yang Guo said, “Long’er, this girl not only harmed me, but also had hurt you. Today, she’s finally getting what she deserves.”

With a bright glow in her eyes, Xiao Longnu gazed at him and asked in bewilderment, “Guo’er, are you saying you aren’t going to save her?”

Yang Guo bitterly replied, “She’s hurt us like this and yet I'm not killing her with my own hand. I’m already doing right by her parents.”

With a sigh Xiao Longnu said, “We are unfortunate. That is our sad fate. If we could make other people happy, wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Despite Yang Guo’s saying all these things, when seeing that the big fires were about to reach Guo Fu, he eventually couldn’t bear it and harshly said, “Great! Our fate is sad. Everybody else’s is fine!” Then he soaked the long gown on his body and strapped on the black iron sword. He quickly conjured up his internal energy and from the sword created a whirlwind that blew away the raging fires. Then he sent Guo Fu out of danger. After that he returned to Xiao Longnu’s side. The hair on his head and his gown were all singed by the fire. His pants were on fire and even though he quickly put it out, the burned areas on his legs already had countless blisters.

Xiao Longnu was carrying Guo Xiang and they retreated to the thatches they were hiding in earlier. While she stretched out her hand to tidy Yang Guo’s hair and clothes, she felt that she had married such a heroic husband. She couldn’t restrain the pride in her heart. Standing in between the strong winds and the roaring flames, she leaned on Yang Guo and her face revealed a peaceful and joyous expression. Yang Guo focused his eyes on her, only to see that the big flames were bringing red to her cheeks, multiplying her delicate beauty and so he placed his arm around her waist. During this slice of time, the two people conveniently forgot all the sufferings and sorrows in the world.

Two people were standing on a high place. The Wu father and sons, Guo Fu and Yelu Qi five people, who were standing in the middle of the creek to avoid the fires, looked up and saw the married couple, with floating clothes and solemn postures. They looked just like deities among mortals. Guo  Fu  had  always looked down on Yang Guo but this time she suddenly felt inferior.

Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu stood there for a moment. Xiao Longnu gazed at the blazing fires on the mountain. She sighed and said, “This place is being burned to the ground. It will take a long time for the flowers, plants, and trees to grow back. Do you think in the future this will ever be a beautiful scene again?”

Yang Guo didn’t want her to feel bad about these things so with a smile he said, “We are newly wed. The Mongolian army set fires to congratulate us. How would they not use tons and tons of flowers as candles? Xiao Longnu giggled. Yang Guo then said, “Let’s go rest in that cave. How do you feel?” Xiao Longnu replied, “I’m still okay.” Then, side by side, the two people walked off towards the back side of the mountain.

Wu Santong suddenly remembered something. He raised his voice and called out, “Yang Xiong di [Brother Yang], my master and Zhu Shi di [Apprentice Brother Zhu] have been trapped in the Passionless Valley [Jue Qing Gu]. Are you going to go and rescue them?”

Yang Guo was startled and didn’t reply. He spoke to himself, “How am I involved in these many things?” He was deep in thought but for a while his feet didn’t stop. They walked to the back side of the mountain where it was all rocky and nothing grew. Although Xiao Longnu’s poisons were severe, they were yet to act up. Her pressure points had earlier been cleared so her martial skills were gradually coming back. With Guo Xiang in her arms, she walked quickly along the way. After walking for half an hour, the two people were already far away from the Chongyang Palace. When they turned their heads to look back, the big fires were burning so intensely that half the sky was glowing red.

The north wind was blowing more and more heavily. It was so cold that Guo Xiang’s small face became red like an apple. Xiao Longnu said, “We must go look for something to eat. The child is both cold and hungry. I’m afraid that she won’t be able to stand it.”

Yang Guo then said, “I was really foolish. I don’t know why I snatched the baby and caused us an unnecessary burden.”

Xiao Longnu bent down to kiss Guo Xiang’s face and said, “This little sister is very lovable. Don’t you like her?” Yang Guo laughed and said, “What’s so special about other people's children? Of course except we make one ourselves.”

Xiao Longnu’s face turned red. Yang Guo’s words touched a mother's instinct deep in her heart. She thought to herself, “Only if I could give you a child... Alas, how would I have such a good fortune?”

For fear that she would be sad; Yang Guo didn’t dare to look her in the eyes. Instead, he lifted his head to check the weather and then saw that the northwest sky was low and heavy as if it would crush down any minute. He said, “Looks like today it will snow heavily. We’d better stay overnight in someone's home.” When they were evading the fires, they walked down the back side of the mountain to a remote and uncultivated no-road area that was filled with scattered rock piles and thorny bushes. They climbed up to the high ground and looked in all directions. Unexpectedly there was no smoke from a house within a ten li radius. Yang Guo said, “The snow definitely won’t be light. If we get snowed in on the mountain, that could be pretty bad. Let’s push a little harder. Today we must get off the mountain.”

Then Xiao Longnu asked, “Do you think Uncle Wu and Guo Guniang [Miss Guo]  will  run  into  the Mongolian army? And could the Taoist priests from the Quanzhen sect get away with their lives?” While saying this, she was genuinely concerned about these people.

Yang Guo said, “Your conscience is really too good. These people have wronged you and yet you still don’t forget all about them. No wonder years ago your master realized that your conscience was too good. Afraid that you’d be miserable later on, she had you practice cutting off all emotions and desires, not involving yourself in all matters. Yet you’ve been caring for me, wasting your over ten years practice. You are also concerned about everybody.”

Xiao Longnu faintly smiled and said, “Is that so? I’ve made your life miserable. In bitterness there is sweetness. My worst fear is that you wouldn’t want me to be concerned about you.”

Yang Guo said, “That’s right. The more bitter… the sweeter. It’s much better than no pain and no gain. I can be madly crazy but can’t stand too many quiet and peaceful days.”

Xiao Longnu giggled and said, “Didn’t you say we’d go south to farm, raise some chickens, and enjoy the sun?”

Yang Guo sighed and said, “I only hope we can always be like this.”

They walked for another several li and then the empty sky was filled with flying snow. At the beginning it was quite light but then the north wind gradually picked up and the more it snowed the heavier it became. The two people knew they couldn’t set their minds at ease until after the blizzard; they used their lightness skills to rush ahead.

Xiao Longnu suddenly asked, “Guo’er, where do you think my shi zi [Apprentice Sister] has gone to?”

Yang Guo responded, “You are still worried about her. We didn’t kill her this time and don’t know… and don’t know…” He originally was going to say “and don’t know if we will be able to when we run into her again” but he was afraid that he’d give Xiao Longnu grief so he decided not to say it.

Xiao Longnu said, “Shi zi [Apprentice sister] is actually a very pitiful person.”

Yang Guo said, “She isn’t willing to be pitiful alone but is determined to make everybody in the world miserable like herself.”

While they were saying this, the sky became even gloomier. But as they came around the corner of the mountain, they suddenly saw a tiny little wooden house between two big pine trees. Several inches of thick white snow were accumulated on its roof.

Yang Guo said in delight, “Great. Let us stop here tonight.” They rushed forward but noticed that the door was left ajar, with no trail of footprints in the snow outside the house. In a clear voice  he  said,  “We passers-by are out here in the snow. May we stay overnight at your place?” A while passed and there was no reply from inside the house.

Yang Guo pushed the door open and saw that there was no one inside. All the tables and benches were covered in dust, indicating that no one had occupied this place for a long time. He then called Xiao Longnu to enter the house. She shut the door and started a fire. A spear was hung on a wooden wall and there was a rabbit snare in one corner of the room. It looked like this place was a temporary hunting shack. In another room there was a bed, with several already tattered wolf skins piled on top. Yang Guo picked up the spear and went out to hunt a deer. He was successful and when he came back, he skinned and dressed it. He used the snow to scrub it clean and then roasted it over the fire.

During this time it snowed even harder outside. But the fire was burning bright inside the house, making it warm like spring. Xiao Longnu chewed the deer meat before feeding it to Guo Xiang. While flipping the meat back and forth over the fire, Yang Guo looked at the two of them with a smile.

The fire was gently crackling. The room was filled with the smell of roasted meat. The small shack on the wild mountain was indeed a warm and deliciously smelling world.

End of Chapter 29. 
@Chapter 30 – Strange Encounters
Once again, this quiet and peaceful moment didn’t last very long. Just a little while after Guo Xiang fell asleep, from the east came the distant crunching sounds of someone walking on the snow in quick steps. Yang Guo stood up and gazed out from the east side window. Then he saw two old men walking side by side on the snowy ground. One was fat, and the other was thin. And with their ragged clothes, they looked just like people from the Beggar Clan. Stranded in the snow, they had to be looking for a place to rest their feet. Yang Guo didn’t want to meet any people at this time and specially detested those from Wulin [the martial world]. He turned around and said, “There are people outside. You should go lay in the bedroom, pretending to be sick.” Xiao Longnu picked up Guo Xiang and went into the bedroom to lie down in bed as suggested. Then she pulled up a tattered wolf skin from the edge of the bed to cover her body.

Yang Guo scooped up some firewood ash and wiped it all over his face and neck. He pulled the hat lower over his face and hid his black iron sword inside a room. Then he heard the two people coming close and knocking on the door. He randomly smeared deer grease on his gown to make him look like a hunter and then went to open the door.

That fat old beggar said, “The snow is coming down heavily in the mountains. It is really miserable out here. May we ask the gentleman to let us beggars stay in your house tonight?” Yang Guo replied, “We are just a hunting family. How could senior call me a gentleman? You may stay here for the night.” That fat old beggar then thanked him profusely. Yang Guo recalled how he once displayed himself at a heroes meeting and didn’t want to be recognized by them. So he ripped two strips of meat from the roasted deer leg, handed them to the two people, and said, “There are so many things to do to survive in the snow. I’ve got to get up early tomorrow to catch a fox. I’m afraid I can’t keep you two company.” The fat old beggar replied, “Please do as you please, little gentleman.”

Then in a coarse tone Yang Guo said, “Old wife, how’s your cough?” Xiao Longnu replied, “It’s the weather change. My chest hurts.” While saying that, she let out a loud cough and her hand gently shook Guo Xiang to wake her up. The sound of a coughing woman was mixed with that of a crying baby and so the three of them really presented a perfect picture of a hunting household.

Yang Guo walked into the bedroom and banged the door shut after him. He lay down in bed next to Xiao Longnu and thought to himself, “This fat beggar looks familiar. Where have I seen him before?” But he couldn’t remember.

The fat and thin beggars thought that Yang Guo really was a poor hunter living on a wild mountain and didn’t suspect anything. While eating the deer leg, they started talking. The thin beggar said, “Today Mount Zhongnan was blasted to the sky. That was well done.” With a laugh the fat beggar added, “The Mongolian Royal Army is attacking from east to west and defeating all their enemies under the sky. Wiping out those little Quanzhen Taoists was as easy as crushing an ant nest.” The thin beggar said, “But just recently Jinlun Fawang suffered quite a loss. That was difficult enough.” The fat beggar laughingly said, “That's even better. It will let the prince know that he must depend on the Chinese to conquer the beautiful homeland of China. Using only the Mongolians and the Western warriors isn't enough.” The thin beggar then said, “Peng Zhang Lao [Elder Peng], when this business of establishing the Southern Beggar Clan is all done, how is the Mongolian emperor going to reward you?”

Having heard this, Yang Guo suddenly remembered something. He'd seen this old fat beggar at the Dashengguan hero banquet but at that time the beggar was dressed in Mongolian attire with a fur coat, and he was whispering advice to Jinlun Fawang. It was this person. So he thought to himself, “These two fellows are actually the country’s traitors. I will just quickly get rid of them to avoid causing any disturbance here.”

This fat old beggar was precisely one of the four big elders of the Beggar Clan, Peng Zhang Lao [Elder Peng], who had earlier fallen in with the Mongols. Yang Guo  heard  him  continue,  “The  emperor  will bestow on me the position of “Chief General of the Southern Province” but, you know, they say ‘Beg for three years and the emperor still might not see it.’ We are members of the Beggar Clan. Why would we want to become a Government Official?” But while saying this, his tone actually revealed a fervent desire for the position.

The thin beggar said, “Let me congratulate you in advance.” Peng Zhang Lao chuckled and said, “Your accomplishments during these many years are not lacking. Naturally, your own reward won’t be small either.”

That thin beggar said, “I don’t wish to become a public official. You’ve promised to teach me the great “Soul Absorbing Technique”. When will you pass it on to me?”

Peng Zhang Lao replied, “Wait until the Southern Beggar Clan is established and I become the chief of the clan. Both of us will have a lot of free time. Then I will definitely pass it on to you.”

The thin beggar said, “By then you’ll be the Chief of the Southern Beggar Clan and also the Mongolian Chief General of the Southern Province. You would only be even busier. How would you have any free time?”

With a laugh Peng Zhang Lao said, “Lao di [Old little brother], is that to say you still don’t trust your big brother?” That thin beggar said nothing and snorted, showing that he didn’t believe him.

Yang Guo thought to himself, “There’s only one Beggar Clan in the world and it’s never been divided into northern and southern sects. His planning to set up this Southern Beggar Clan must be a devious scheme to help the Mongols.”

The thin beggar continued, “Peng Zhang Lao [Elder Peng], you’ve promised someone something. Sooner or later you’ve got to do it. You seniors keep putting things off, disappointing other people.”

Peng Zhang Lao blandly asked, “What would you do then?”

The thin beggar retorted, “What would I do? My martial skills are low. My courage is small. I don’t have any great skills. But I’ve been accompanying you, helping you deceive numerous sect brothers. Later on when Chief Huang and Chief Lu come to investigate, I think I’ll tremble with fear and spill everything to wash my hands from this mud.”

Yang Guo thought, “The thin beggar doesn’t want to live. How could he dare say such thing? That Peng Zhang Lao has a lofty aspiration and an evil and cold-blooded nature. You’re really both venomous and foolish.”

Peng Zhang Lao let out a ‘ha-ha’ laugh and said, “We’ll discuss this in time. You don’t have to worry.”

The thin beggar didn’t say a word. But after a while he said, “One tiny deer leg is not filling. I’ll go out and get more food.” While saying that he took down the spear from the wall and pushed the door open.

Yang Guo looked through a crack in the wall and saw that as soon as that thin beggar went out the door, Peng Zhang Lao straightened up his body, drawing out a short knife and hiding it behind the door. He then heard the sounds of footsteps moving towards the west and disappearing out of the door. With a chuckle Yang Guo told Xiao Longnu, “This pair of beggars are about to kill each other, saving us a lot of trouble. That fat beggar is very dangerous. That thin one is definitely not his match.”

Xiao Longnu said, “It’ll be best if the two of them don’t come back. This house is quite peaceful. I don’t want people to come and disturb us.”

“True,” said Yang Guo. Suddenly he lowered his voice, “I hear the sounds of footsteps.” They then heard someone making a detour around the mountain side and come back behind the house.

With a faint smile Yang Guo said, “That thin old man’s come back for a sneak attack.” He pushed the window open and gently leapt out. Then he saw the thin beggar crouching down to peep through a crack in the wall. He didn’t see a trace of Peng Zhang Lao, as if that beggar hadn’t yet come up with a plan. Yang Guo walked up behind the thin man and said with a laugh, “Hey!”

Taken by surprise, the thin beggar snapped his head back, thinking that it was Peng Zhang Lao sneaking up behind him. His face looked alarmed and terrified. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.” Yang Guo said and reached out to press the three pressure points -- on his chest, below his ribs, and on his leg. Then he moved the thin beggar to the front door. Before his eyes was a vast field of white deep snow. The child in him sprang up and so he called out, “Long’er, come quickly and help me build a snowman.” He scooped up the white snow on the ground and started piling it onto that thin beggar’s body. Xiao Longnu came out of the house to help. Merrily, the two of them worked on the snowman and a short while later that beggar was thoroughly covered with the white snow. Except the pair of eyeballs that could still move, the thin beggar turned into an extremely fat and heavy snowman.

With a laugh Yang Guo said, “This thin decrepit old man’s become both fat and white in a flash.” Xiao Longnu giggled and said, “And that other fat and white old man… what would you change him into?” Yang Guo had yet to reply when he heard the sounds of footsteps from the distance. He lowered his voice, “That fat old beggar’s back. Let’s hide.” The two people returned to the house and shut the door. Xiao Longnu shook Guo Xiang, making her cry. At the same time she coaxed, “Hush, hush, don’t cry.” In her whole life, she'd never pretended to do anything but this situation was so strange that she didn’t even think about it. She saw that Yang Guo was having fun so she just played along with him.

As Peng Zhang Lao returned, he examined footprints on the snow. He saw the thin old beggar’s footprints going out and coming back again, showing that he was planning  an  ambush  from  the  left  side  of  the house. He followed the footprints to the back of the house and then came out to the front again. Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were about to open the door but then saw his short body bending over to peep into the house through the window, his right hand firmly holding a knife, and his whole body alert.

The thin old beggar was freezing to the bone. He saw that Peng Zhang Lao [Elder Peng] was unsuspectingly standing right in front of him. If only he could move his hand, he would have been able to strike him dead. But the three pressure points on his body had been sealed, making him unable to move.

Peng Zhang Lao saw that there was nobody in the house and thought it was really strange. He pushed open the door, expecting the thin beggar to come out. But suddenly he heard the sounds of footsteps coming from the distance. Peng Zhang Lao’s expression changed, and he went to hide behind the door panel, waiting for the thin beggar to return.

Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were puzzled. That thin beggar had become a snowman. How could there be people coming? While hesitating, they heard that it was two people and knew that they had guests again. Peng Zhang Lao’s hearing was far inferior to theirs. As the two people were approaching, he looked alarmed.

Then someone from outside the house said, “Amituofo, we needy monks are stuck here in the mountain snow. May we ask the patrons to let us stay here overnight?” Peng Zhang Lao turned his body around and saw two old monks standing in the snow. One had long white eyebrows, with a benign face. The other was a small-built man with a gray beard, dressed in black. And even in this cold winter month, the two people were wearing thin clothes.

Peng Zhang Lao was still in a trance when Yang Guo came out of the room and said, “Please come in. Why are you two still standing in the doorway?” By this time Peng Zhang Lao saw the snowman. And after some observation, he eventually recognized the thin beggar. Seeing this strange transformation, he was greatly surprised and turned around to look at Yang Guo. But Yang Guo looked to be normal, as if he didn’t know anything about it at all.

After having invited the two old monks in Yang Guo thought: “It looks like these two old monks aren’t just ordinary people; especially that wicked looking monk dressed in black. With that strange glow in his eyes, I’m afraid he’ll turn out to be like this Peng Zhang Lao.” Then he said, “Big monks, you’ve stopped to rest here. We are poor mountain people and can’t provide beds for you to sleep in. Do the two of you eat game?”

The white-eye  browed monk put  his two palms together  (he  shi) joining ten  fingers to pay respect) and said, “That’s wrong. That’s wrong. We’ve brought our own food. We dare not burden our patrons.”

Yang Guo said, “That’s good.” Then he came back into the bedroom and whispered into Xiao Longnu’s ear, “The two old monks looked to be very powerful masters.”

Xiao Longnu frowned and said in a low voice, “There are really many evil people in the world. Deep in the mountain like this, people still won’t leave us alone in peace.”

Yang Guo bent down to look through a crack in the wall and saw that the white-eye browed monk took out four lumps of fried noodles from his rucksack. He gave two of them to the monk dressed in black and slowly ate the other two. Yang Guo thought, “The white-eye browed monk looks kind and composed, really like an esteemed monk. But there are just so many evil people who look good on the outside. Isn’t this Peng Zhang Lao always laughing and looking very friendly? Still, how come that monk in black looks murderously evil like that?”

While contemplating this, he suddenly heard two ‘lang-lang’ sounds. That monk in black took out black shiny iron objects out of his robe. Peng Zhang Lao who was originally sitting on a bench immediately jumped up and drew out his knife. The monk in black paid him no attention. Instead, he chained his own feet with one of those black objects, which turned out to be an iron manacle, and did the same thing to both of his hands. Yang Guo and Peng Zhang Lao were stunned, unable to figure out why he shackled his own hands and feet. But having seen this, they could somewhat let down their guard against him.

The face of that white-eye browed monk was filled with concern. He asked in a low voice, “It’s acting up again?”

The monk in black replied, “On the way here I didn’t feel very well. I’m afraid that it’ll happen again.” Suddenly he knelt down on the floor, putting his two palms together and pleading, “May Lord Buddha show mercy.” Having said that, he crouched down and stayed motionless in a kneeling position. After a while, he started to shiver and gasp for air, making wheezing noises. Then he unexpectedly let out a bull- like roar, so loud that it shook the wooden walls and sent the snow on the rooftop down to the ground.

Peng Zhang Lao was so frightened that his heart was thumping wildly. Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu also gaped at each other in astonishment, not knowing what this monk was doing. Judging from the roar, his body had to be in great distress. Although Yang Guo had been feeling hostility towards him from the beginning, this time he actually couldn’t help pity the man. He mused, “I don’t know what strange disease has struck him. Why hasn’t that white-eyebrowed monk done something about it?” After a while, the roar from that monk in black slowed, as if he was becoming out of breath. The white- eyebrowed monk soothingly said, “What should not be done will be done; what should be done will be rejected; repent from burning anger and hatred; from now on start anew…” These  few  sentences  were spoken gently. But even amid the loud roar, one could still hear them very clearly.

Yang Guo was alarmed and thought, “This old monk’s internal energy was so profound. Who in the world would be able to match him?” Then he heard the white-eyebrowed monk continue the Buddhist verse, “He who repents for his crime will not be sad but become peaceful. He who repents for his misdeeds will not do evil.”

After the verse was recited, the monk in black stopped panting. He thought dully and croaked, “He who repents for his crime will not be sad… Shifu [master], I know full well I have done all sorts of things, all of them evil and full of hatred. I couldn’t control myself. I was thinking about ‘He  who  repents  for  his misdeeds will not do evil.’ But in my heart I couldn’t find peace. How could that be good?”

The white-eyebrowed monk replied, “Being able to repent for past sins is really difficult. We humans are not saints. Who has never erred? Only to know that we…”

As Yang Guo heard this, he vividly remembered something, “Guo Bobo [Uncle Guo] named me ‘Guo,’ meaning to change. He said it came from ‘knowing that we can change is the greatest virtue.’ Can it be that this old monk is a saint, coming today to change me?”

That monk in black said, “My evil is really difficult to expel. Ten years ago, even after I’d already followed master for a long time, I still injured three people. Today, it’s as if my blood is boiling, and it’s been very difficult to control myself. I’m afraid that I’m going to commit a hideous crime. I beg for master’s mercy. Please cut off both of my hands.”

The white-eyebrowed monk replied, “Good, very good! I could chop off your hands for you. But for all the evil thoughts in your heart, you’d have to eliminate them yourself. If your evil thoughts don’t go away, how would my cutting off all your hands and feet help?”

The monk in black shook violently and suddenly choked in tears. He said, “Shifu [master] has enlightened me. But all this time I haven’t been able to get rid of my evil thoughts.”

The white-eyebrowed monk let out a deep sigh and said, “Although you know what’s right and wrong, your heart is filled with hatred. When you don’t know how to  love,  evil  thoughts  are  always  difficult  to eliminate. Let me tell you a Buddhist tale of a mother deer.” The monk in black replied, “I’m listening.” Then he sat down cross-legged. Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu on the  other  side  of  the  wall  were  also listening in silence.

The white-eyebrowed monk said, “A long time ago, there were a mother deer and two small fawns. The mother deer was careless and was captured by a hunter, who wanted  to  kill  her.  The  mother  deer kowtowed to him and begged, ‘I just gave birth to two fawns. They are young and innocent, and do not know how to find water and grass. May I ask you for some time so I can teach them to find food for themselves? After that, I’ll come back to die.’ The  hunter  wouldn’t  listen.  But  after  the  mother  deer begged and begged (with her sad doe eyes), he was moved and then let her go.”

“The mother deer searched for her two babies. Then she lowered her head and cried, licking her children’s bodies. In her heart was a mixture of happiness and sadness. She told the two fawns, ‘A love relationship is predestined. Meetings have to end, and we rarely have much time. Today I’m your mother. I’m afraid I can’t protect myself. Life and death are everywhere. And danger came too early.’ The two fawns were small and didn’t understand her meaning. And so the mother deer pointed them to a beautiful place with water and grass, tears flowing from her eyes. Then she said, ‘Our time has ended. I fell into a hunter’s hand by accident and was about to be killed. I begged the hunter so I could come back to see you, and today I’ll die. I pity you, having to be motherless so young and living by yourself.’”

Having heard this, Xiao Longnu recalled how her own life would also be cut short. She thought about these few sentences -- ‘Life and death are everywhere, and danger came too early’ and ‘I pity you, having to be motherless so young and living by yourself.’ She couldn’t bear it, and tears were flowing from her eyes. Yang Guo knew perfectly well that the white-eyebrowed monk was only telling a Buddhist tale but the tale of the mother deer and her children was very sad, and so he also was moved.

The white-eyebrowed monk continued the story, “Having finished saying this, the mother deer left her two fawns. The two of them cried, weeping in sorrow and following her closely behind. The babies were small and couldn’t run fast but they scrambled, tumbling down and  getting  up,  to  follow  their  mother,  not willing to let her go. The mother deer paused. She turned around and said, ‘Babies! You can’t come along. If the hunter sees you, we mother and babies will all be finished. I’m ready to die, only fearing that you two are still weak. Nothing is permanent in the world. Everybody has to leave. I am ill-fated, causing you to lose your mother when you are still small.’ And then she fled to the hunter. The two fawns didn’t fear the hunter’s arrows and arrived after her.” The hunter saw that the mother deer was trustworthy, giving up her life to keep her words, and that her determination surpassed that of humans. Besides, he saw that the three deer were not willing to leave one another. He felt pity and decided not to kill her. The three of them shouted out in happiness, thanking the hunter. The hunter then told this story to the king, and the whole nation applauded and  stopped  evil killings.”

The monk in black listened to this story, tears streaming down his face. He said, “The deer were righteous. The mother deer was compassionate, and her offspring were filial. In no way can I compare to them.”

The white-eyebrowed monk said, “If there is compassion, any  killing  intention  will  disappear.”  While saying this, he looked at Peng Zhang Lao who was nearby, as if he was also explaining all this to him. The monk in black responded, “True!” The white-eyebrowed monk continued, “If one wants to make amends that also is virtuous. It’s better than repenting and doing nothing. From today on, we should do good deeds.” Then he let out a small sigh, “Even I, in my life, have done many bad things.” Having said this, he shut his eyes and was deep in thought.

Even though the monk in black understood his master’s teaching, he was still troubled, finding it difficult to control himself. He lifted his head, only to see that Elder Peng was staring at him with a cat-like smile, his eyes looking as if they were shining lights. The monk in black was startled, feeling like he’d seen such a person somewhere before. He felt very uncomfortable with this meaningful look, and so he immediately turned his head away to avoid the gaze. But after a short while, he couldn’t bear it and turned back to meet those eyes.

With a smile Elder Peng said, “The snow has been coming down hard, don’t you think?” The monk in black replied, “Yes, it’s been coming down hard.”

Elder Peng then said, “Come. Let’s go look at the snow.” Having said this, he pushed the door open. The monk in black repeated, “Good, let’s go look at the snow.” Then he got up to go stand side by side with Elder Peng at the door. At this time even though Yang Guo was behind the wall, he could sense that Elder Peng’s eyes were really strange and ominous.

Elder Peng said, “What your master said is right. Murder is wrong in any case. But the power in your body is overflowing. If you don’t let it out, your heart feels very difficult. Is that right?” In a daze, the monk in black replied, “It’s true!” Elder Peng said, “You might as well strike this snow man. Hit him, and you won’t sin.” The monk in black looked at the snowman and lifted both arms, eager to try. By now the two monks had been here for about half an hour, and the thin beggar’s body was thoroughly covered with white snow, even his eyes couldn’t be seen. Elder Peng urged, “Use your palms. Hit this snowman. Hit…Hit…Hit!” His words were soft, filled with encouragement. The monk in black channeled energy to his arms and said, “Good, I’ll hit!”

The white-eyebrowed monk lifted his head and let out a long sigh. In a low voice he said, “Where there is a murderous intention, there is sin.”

But then he heard a crashing sound. The monk in black shot out both of his palms, sending the white snow flying. The thin beggar’s body was struck, his pressure points unsealed, and so he let out a loud miserable ‘ah’ cry, which echoed into the distance. Xiao Longnu softly cried out, her hands grabbing Yang Guo’s.

The monk in black was shocked. He yelled, “There was someone in the snow!” The white-eyebrowed monk quickly came out and bent down to examine the body. The thin beggar  was  struck  by  the  extremely powerful palms of the monk in black, and thus he was killed violently. The monk in black was all confused and became dully still.

Elder Peng acted like he was frightened and said, “This person was really strange. Why did he hide in the snow? Eh, why was he holding a knife?” Elder Peng had used his “Soul Absorbing Technique”, urging the monk in black to kill the thin beggar. He was very pleased with himself. Still, he couldn’t help being puzzled and thought to himself, “Surprisingly this servant had endurance, hiding very still in the snow. Could it be that the snow was blocking his ears and so he didn’t hear me urging that man to hit him?”

With a dull look in his eyes the monk in black could only cry out, “Master!” The white-eyebrowed monk said, “Such a pity. It wasn’t you who killed this person, yet it was you who did it.” The monk in black crouched down on the snow and his voice trembled,  “I  don’t  understand.”  The  white-eyebrowed  monk said, “You only knew that this was a snowman so you didn’t mean to hurt people. But your palms were wickedly powerful, without restraint. How can it be said that you didn’t have murderous intentions?” The monk in black said, “I certainly had murderous intentions.”

The white-eyebrowed monk looked at Elder Peng with a long steady gaze. His eyes were gentle, yet filled with grief. Simply with just this look, Elder Peng’s great ‘Soul Absorbing’ spell vanished. The monk in black suddenly cried out, “You are one of the Beggar Clan’s elders. It now came to my mind!” The cat-like smile on Elder Peng’s face disappeared in an instant. He frowned and shrewdly said, “And you are Iron Palms Chief Qiu. How did you become a monk?”

This monk in black was precisely Iron Palms Qiu Qianren. Years  ago,  on  Mount  Hua,  he  suddenly regretted all that he’d done and became a monk under Reverend Yideng’s tutelage. And this white- eyebrowed, old monk was Reverend Yideng, who was in the same league as  Wang  Chongyang,  Huang Yaoshi, Ouyang Feng, and Hong Qigong. Qiu Qianren shaved his head and became a monk named Ci’en, following a Buddhist’s path and diligently mending his ways. But he’d done many despicable things in the past, making it very difficult to eliminate the monster in his heart. Facing the many temptations in the world, he couldn’t resist hurting people. And so he'd made a pair of strong manacles so that whenever his mind became troubled, he could shackle his hands and feet, keeping his evilness in check. At this time Reverend Yideng, who usually secluded himself in Hunan, had received a letter asking for help from his disciple Zhu Ziliu. So he and Ci’en were now on their way to the Passionless Valley. Nobody could have expected that they would run into Elder Peng on this remote mountain. Ci’en actually had no intention to hurt people.

In over ten years since becoming a monk, although Ci'en had violated some rules, this was actually the first time he had taken someone’s life. His mind was greatly disturbed, feeling that over ten years of his Buddhist study was all for nothing. He gave Elder Peng a vicious stare, with raging fire in his eyes.

Reverend Yideng knew that this was a critical moment. If one used force to stop him from getting into a fight, his evilness would multiply. Like a bursting flood, once released, there would be no redemption. Having thought this, he only looked at Ci’en with kindness, hoping that his evil thoughts would just melt away when he came to his senses. He kindly stood by him and gently chanted, “Amituofo, Amituofo!” He repeated this several times until Ci’en stopped staring at Elder Peng and came back to sit in the house, breathing heavily.

Elder Peng had known earlier that Qiu Qianren’s martial skills were weighty but he  didn’t  recognize Reverend Yideng. Seeing the snow-white eyebrows, he mistook Reverend Yideng for a weak monk on the verge of death and paid him no attention. He only thought to use his ‘Soul Absorbing’ skill to control Qiu Qianren and achieve his goal. Who would have thought that as soon as Reverend Yideng looked at him, he felt as if his heart was crushed by a thousand-catty weight, he was not able to use his magical skill. By this time he’d almost wet his pants. He wanted to flee but this Qiu Qianren was also nicknamed “Iron Palms Floating on Water.” His lightness skills were strange; he didn’t even leave footprints on the snow. It looked like he wouldn’t be able to escape so he only hoped that Qiu Qianren would listen to the words of the white-eyebrowed monk, who was persuading Qiu Qianren not to harm him.  He  shrank  himself  in  the corner of the room, frightened. And as Ci’en’s pants grew heavier, his heart also thumped wildly.

Yang Guo had listened to Yideng telling the three-deer story. Now he thought about how no living things could escape death. Even though that thin beggar was wicked and deserved to be damned, his sudden encounter with this disaster was actually quite shocking. And more than that, he saw that Ci’en’s palm strength was strangely fierce. Who was this monk with such powerful martial skills?

Then he heard Ci’en panting for air and loudly crying out, “Master, I was born an evil person. Heaven wouldn’t let me repent. Although I didn’t mean to kill people, I finally couldn’t avoid taking somebody’s life. I’m not a monk anymore!”

Yideng said, “Sin, sin! Let me tell you another Buddhist tale.” Ci’en rudely retorted, “Why should I still listen to your Buddhist tale? You’ve been deceiving me for more than ten years. I don’t believe you anymore.” With two ‘ge-la’ ‘ge-la’ sounds, the chains on his hands and feet snapped. Yideng gently said, “Ci’en, what’s done is done. You don’t have to get angry.”

Ci’en stood up. Facing Yideng, he shook his head. Then he turned his body around and struck Elder Peng’s chest with both palms. With a loud crashing sound, Elder Peng collided with a wall and flew out into open space. After having been struck by these ‘Iron Palms’, his muscles and bones shattered. Even if he had ten lives, he would still be dead.

Hearing this loud crash, Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu jumped in fright and, side by side, came out of the room. They saw Ci’en raising his hands up high, with his eyes shining with murderous lights. He loudly shouted, “What are you looking at? Once started, I might as well go all the way. Today this old man will start killing.” Having said this, he channeled energy to his arms and was about to use his ‘Iron Palms’ again.

Reverend Yideng walked to the door entrance, shielding Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu’s bodies. He sat down cross-legged and recited Buddhist verses. Then he said, “You haven’t gone too far on the wrong path. You can still return. Ci’en, do you really want to sink beyond redemption?”

Ci’en’s face turned blue and then red. His mind was extremely chaotic, with good and evil battling it out. Today his mind had been troubled since they encountered the snow, and it was also stirred up by the “Soul Absorbing Skill”. More than that, he’d killed two people, making it very difficult to control himself. One minute Reverend Yideng was his gracious master who had been helping him, and the next he actually became his biggest personal enemy.

For a moment he stood there stiffly. Then his evil thoughts became stronger and stronger. Suddenly he gave a loud shout and attacked Reverend Yideng with his palm. Reverend Yideng brought his hand up to his chest, his body slightly swaying, as he blocked that palm strike. Ci’en angrily said, “You surely won’t be able to defeat me!” Then his left palm struck again. Reverend Yideng raised his hand, yet he didn’t counterstrike. Ci’ en shouted, “Aren’t you clever? You don’t hit back. Then you’ll die in vain. Don’t blame me!”

Even though his mind was disturbed, his words actually made sense. His ‘Iron  Palms’  and  Reverend Yideng’s “One Yang Finger” both claimed victories in battles, and years ago they were ranked equal in the martial world. Yideng’s Buddhist study was the basis of their master-disciple relationship. But speaking of martial skills, even if Yideng used the “One Yang Finger” against the ‘Iron Palms’ skill it actually would be somewhat inferior. In a one-way attack, using his whole strength to counterstrike, he might only win by a small margin, but as time went by, Yideng would eventually be killed or severely injured. Bravely, Yideng was willing to sacrifice himself, and received Ci’en’s palm strikes without hitting back. He only hoped that Ci’en would realize his mistakes and repent. This act of not using force against force was actually a battle between good and evil.

Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu witnessed how each of Ci’en’s ‘Iron Palms’ was like an axe striking Reverend Yideng. Coming to the fourteenth strike, Yideng let out a ‘wa’ sound and coughed up blood. Startled, Ci’en said, “Aren't you going to fight back?” Yideng gently responded, “Why should I fight back? What good is it if I win? What good is it if you win? We must fight with ourselves, restrain ourselves!” Ci’en was confused, muttering, “Must fight with ourselves, and restrain ourselves!”

Reverend Yideng’s words were like thunder rumbling in Yang Guo’s mind. He thought to himself, “Must fight our own nature, and must restrain our foolish thoughts. It’s certainly much more difficult than defeating powerful enemies. The words of this esteemed monk are really the truth.” He saw that Ci’en’s palms pause slightly in midair but, with a shout, they eventually struck down again. Yideng’s body shook, and he threw up another pool of blood, staining his white beard and monk’s robe.

Having seen Yideng’s defense techniques and endurance, Yang Guo knew that his martial skills were in no way inferior to those of the monk in black. But this was a one-sided attack, and even a body of iron and stone could eventually be destroyed. Now, he already admired Yideng to no end, knowing full well that he wanted to sacrifice himself to change that evil person. Anyway, he couldn’t bear to see Reverend Yideng perish like this. He thought about how he himself, if using only palm strength, wouldn’t be able to block the ‘Iron Palms’ of that monk in black. He turned around to grab his black iron sword and wielded it, shielding Yideng’s body. He waited for Ci’en to strike with his ‘Iron Palms’ again and then thrusts forward his sword. The wind stirred up by the black iron sword clashed with the palm wind. Their bodies trembled.

Ci’en let out a surprised sound. Never would he expect that there would be a young hunter with such marvelous martial skills living on a wild mountain. Reverend Yideng also looked at Yang Guo in great surprise.

Ci’en sharply shouted, “Who are you? What are you doing?”

Yang Guo said, “The great reverend has given you great advice, how come you don’t realize that? Not listening to the precious words is bad enough, but you have to be hateful and harm him. How would you not be worse than an animal acting like this?”

Ci’en furiously shouted, “Are you from the Beggar Clan too? Do you want to accompany that evil elder of the clan?”

Yang Guo laughed and said, “Those two people were the scum of the Beggar Clan. Your getting rid of those evil people was actually a good deed. Why must you beat yourself over it?”

Ci’en was startled, mumbling to himself, “Getting rid of those evil people was actually a good deed… Getting rid of those evil people was actually a good deed…”

Yang Guo had been behind the wall listening to their master-disciple  verbal  exchange,  and  so  he understood Ci’en’s concerns, knowing that remorse caused him to hate and stirred up his evil thoughts. He continued, “Those people were traitorous disciples of the Beggar Clan, like a  wolf  hiding  in  our homeland of China. Your killing two such people was really a great thing. If they hadn’t been killed, I don’t know how many of our fellow Buddhists might have had to die. Lord Buddha is merciful but, meeting with such demons, how could benevolence still be used to expel evil spirits?”

Yang Guo’s knowledge of Buddhist doctrines was very shallow but to Ci’en’s ears what he said actually made sense. He slowly put down his hands but then he changed his mind, vividly recalling that in the past he himself had allied with the Jin, helping them invade the great Song country. And so it was like Yang Guo was actually derogating him. He suddenly raised his palm to hack down at Yang Guo and said, “Little animal, what nonsense are you jabbering?” This palm was fast and furious. Yang Guo was busy trying to persuade him with words and didn’t expect Ci’en to suddenly launch an attack. By the time the wind from his palm arrived, it was too dangerous to counterstrike with his own force. And so he went along with that palm strength, his body leaping backward. There came two crashing sounds as he crashed into a wooden wall, and his body was thrown out of the house. Reverend Yideng was startled and thought to himself, “Would this young man have to die like this? It looked like his martial skills were good! Alas, how would I be able to save his life?” His mind was greatly troubled.

The fire in the room was suddenly blown out by a gust of wind rushing through that hole in the wall. Yang Guo came in with the wind, his sword pointing at Ci’en. He shouted, “Good, today you and I will fight.” Ci’en shot out his left palm, aiming to strike Yang Guo’s sword tip with his palm strength. But Yang Guo’s swordplay was really a testimony of Dugu Qiubai’s ingenuity. Even though their ages were far apart, he shouldn’t have been able to match this old master. With his sword practice under the mountain streams, the snake gallbladders that boosted his energy, and the Divine Eagle’s help, Yang Guo’s sword skills were very similar to those of the unparalleled Demonic Sword Master of the past era. As Ci’en’s palm arrived, Yang Guo’s sword tip was only nudged a few inches aside, and it was still pointing at Ci’en’s left arm. Horrified, Ci’en dodged to the right to escape the sword and quickly sent out another palm strike. With the two people’s marvelous skills, the palms and the sword were battling violently.

Yideng watched the fight in wonder. This youth was only twenty years old or so but surprisingly, could fight a draw with master Qiu’s ‘Iron Palms’. His own knowledge was vast, yet he couldn’t recognize where Yang Guo’s martial skills came from. Also, his heavy sword was marvelously strange. Then he turned his head back and saw Xiao Longnu with a baby in her arms, standing by the door. She appeared a beautiful woman, with an elegant look. Surprisingly she didn’t seem to be frightened by the two people’s wicked fight at all. He thought to himself, “This young lady isn’t a common character either.” But then he noticed a dark cloud between her eyebrows and couldn’t help letting out an ‘ayo’ cry. Xiao Longnu faintly smiled and thought, “You’ve figured it out.”

By now the fight between the two people, a sword and two palms became even fiercer. Yang Guo had the advantage of using a weapon but Ci’en had one more arm, and so they were about even. There came a loud crashing sound as a wooden plank was shaken loose. More cracking sounds were heard as a post also snapped. This wooden house was small and not very sturdy. Really, it was no place for the two great masters to fight a battle. Wherever the sword edge and the palm wind went, the wooden boards on the four walls would all fly in chaos. Finally they heard another loud cracking sound as another post snapped, causing the whole house to collapse. With Guo Xiang in her arms, Xiao Longnu dove out through the window. Yideng guarded their back, using his gown sleeves to brush away the flying debris.

In the howling wind and blowing snow, the two people’s wicked fight continued on. In over ten years, Ci’en had never got into a fight like this. He gave out a loud cry, his Iron Palms  flitting  and  flying everywhere. Over a hundred moves passed, but his opponent’s sword strength was even more powerful. With his declining years, he’d gradually lose the fight.  Yang  Guo  thrust  his  sword  straight  out.  Seeing Ci’en dodging the blow, he quickly swept his sword around, and the fierce wind sent the snow swirling. Blinded by the snow, Ci’en quickly lifted his hand to wipe it off. Suddenly the black iron sword made contact with his right shoulder, and he felt as if his body was crushed by a thousand-catty weight. Not being able to keep his balance, he tumbled down with Yang Guo’s  sword tip  on his  chest. Although  the sword was blunt, its force was strangely fierce. With its tip pressing against his breast bone, he could only breathe out but couldn’t breathe in enough air.

At this time the word ‘die’ flashed in the mind of Ci’en. Since the time he’d learned his marvelous martial skills, he’d roamed Jianghu, only knowing how to kill and injure others. Extremely rarely had he run into any setbacks. He’d been defeated by Zhou Botong, and he’d run away to the Western region. Later on he’d depended on clever tricks to get away from the Old Urchin. This time death was nearing as it never had before. He thought that death itself wasn’t a big thing but he felt that if his life was cut short like this, he wouldn’t be able to make amends for all sorts of evil things he’d done in the past. Reverend Yideng’s thousands and thousands of words couldn’t get through to him but Yang Guo’s one sword made him realize that, “Killing brings misery. I only knew how to kill people. Being killed like this is actually miserable.”

Having seen Yang Guo defeating Ci’en, Reverend Yideng thought to himself, “Such a young hero is really very rare.” Then he stepped forward and touched the sword blade with his finger. Heat shot through Yang Guo’s left arm, and his black iron sword was immediately brushed aside.

Ci’en stood up and then threw himself down on the ground. He cried out, “Master, I deserve to die a terrible death. I deserve to die a terrible death!” With a faint smile, Yideng patted him on the back and said, “Change is not easy. Why haven’t you thanked this young hero for the lesson?”

Yang Guo had earlier suspected that this old monk was Reverend Yideng. Having seen this monk brushing aside his sword blade with one finger, he thought that this 'One Yang Finger' and Island Master Huang’s ‘Divine Flicking Finger’ were equally exquisite, and there was no third person in the world who could match their finger strength. He immediately kowtowed and said, “Disciple Yang Guo pays respect to Reverend.” He saw Ci’en kneeling down before him so he quickly said, “Senior, please don’t do that. I’m younger than you. Just now I’ve offended you enough.” Then he pointed at Xiao Longnu and said, “This is my wife, named Long. Quickly come kowtow to the Reverend.” With Guo Xiang in her arms, Xiao Longnu stepped forward to greet him.

Ci’en said, “Master, just now I'd gone mad. Is your injury very severe?” Yideng chuckled and asked, “Do you feel better now?” Ci’en felt sorry to no end, not knowing what to say.

The four people sat down on a collapsed post. Yang Guo recounted how he met Wu Santong, Zhu Ziliu and Diancang Yuyin. He also talked about how he got poisoned in the Passionless Valley, and how the Indian monk and Zhu Ziliu went there to seek the antidote for him and then got trapped.

Yideng said, “That’s why my disciple has gone to the Passionless Valley. But do you know how this monk Ci’en is related to the mistress of the valley?”

He’d heard Elder Peng calling Ci’en “Iron Palms Chief Qiu” so he said, “Reverend Ci’en was born with the last name Qiu. Could it be possible that he was the Iron Palms Chief Qiu?”

Ci’en slowly nodded.

Yang Guo continued, “In that case, the mistress of the Passionless Valley must be your younger sister.” Ci’en responded, “Indeed. Was she well?”

Yang Guo didn’t quite know how to answer the question. Qiu Qianchi’s husband had destroyed all the tendons in her four limbs, leaving her a cripple. He really couldn’t bring himself to say the word ‘well.’

Ci’en saw Yang Guo hesitate so he said, “That sister of mine always did as she pleased. I wouldn’t be too surprised if she ran into trouble.”

Yang Guo then said, “Her limbs were disabled but her body was actually very healthy.”

With a sigh Ci’en said, “Many years have passed. We’ve all grown old. Alas, she and her two brothers...” Having said this, he was lost in thought, recalling old memories.

Yideng knew that Ci’en had yet to let go and that his close brush with death only interrupted the stream of evil thoughts. But really the roots of evil were still there. If stirred up by strong emotions, Ci’en would unavoidably go crazy again. He didn’t know how much longer he could live and help Ci’en. He could only let it all depend on fate.

Seeing Yideng look at Ci’en with pity in his eyes, Yang Guo suddenly thought to himself, “Reverend Yideng’s martial skills were definitely not inferior to his disciple’s. Yet, he wouldn’t return the attacks. There must be a reason. I’m afraid my jumping out to fight like that would make the matter worse.”

So he quickly said, “Reverend, I, young disciple, acted on the spur of the moment. Please let me know if just now I was rash, and made a mistake.”

Yideng replied, “The human mind is hard to fathom. If he’d killed me, he couldn’t have awakened like this. He would have sunk to the bottomless pit. You saved my life and brought him back to his senses. How could it be a mistake? I feel it was all for the better.”

Then he turned to Xiao Longnu and asked, “How did you get poisoned, young lady?”

Having heard that, Yang Guo felt a ray of hope shining down on him. He quickly said, “We were circulating energy to heal her injury, and it was at that time that the poisons got into her body. Could you help her?” He then knelt down on the ground on both knees.

Yideng helped him up and asked, “How did she circulate her inner energy? Why is her energy flowing in the opposite direction?”

Yang Guo replied, “She used the reverse energy flow technique, along with the Chilled Jade Bed and my help.”

Yideng heard his explanation and couldn’t help clucking his tongue in approval. He said, “That Ouyang brother was really a strange person. This reverse energy flow technique is quite unconceivable.”

He reached out to check Xiao Longnu’s pulse. Then his face turned sorrowful. For a long while he didn’t say a word.

Yang Guo looked at him nervously, hoping he would say “curable.” Xiao Longnu’s eyes were always on Yang Guo. She herself hadn’t expected to live this long. Seeing a melancholy expression on his face, she slowly said, “Fate determines life and death. How could we have it all as we wish? Guo’er, grief can hurt you. Don’t worry too much.”

This was the first time Xiao Longnu spoke since Yideng’s arrival. Her words were spoken gently and calmly, showing that she understood life and death. Yideng couldn’t help becoming puzzled. He didn’t know that since childhood Xiao Longnu had been taught to have a clear mind and little emotion. This lady was young and fatally poisoned. He’d thought that she’d be extremely saddened. Who would have thought that her speech was that of someone who had deep religious knowledge? He thought to himself, “This young husband and wife are really the world’s perfect couple. The husband has such kungfu. The wife understands life and death. This is really rare. In my entire life, I’ve only seen one couple -- Guo Jing and Huang Rong-- that can compare to them. My own disciples don’t even come close. Alas, her poisons are so severe. After my injury, I can't use my “One Yang Finger” to help her.”

With a slight hesitation, he said, “You two are young but your achievements are really not common. May this old monk speak frankly...”

Having heard this, Yang Guo’s heart sank, his hands turning ice-cold.

Then Yideng continued, “The young madam’s poison condition is very severe. If I wasn't injured, I could use my “One Yang Finger” to temporarily stop the poisons so we could go search for the antidote. But today… luckily your energy foundation is strong. I have this medicine that can save you for seven days. Then let us go to the Passionless Valley together to look for my disciple.”

Yang Guo jumped up and cried out. “Good! This Indian monk is known for his knowledge of poisons. He must have a way to save my wife.”

Yideng said, “If my disciple can find a cure that is natural. In the world some children die shortly after birth. Young lady here has had a chance to get married, that is fortunate.”

Having said this far, he recalled that years ago Zhou Botong and Concubine Liu had a child but because of his own jealously and hatred, he was not willing to save him. And that child eventually died. And it was actually Ci’en who'd injured him.

Yang Guo looked at Yideng with wide, shocked eyes. He thought to himself, “We still don’t know if Long’er can be cured. Yet, you haven’t said a word of comfort.”

Xiao Longnu made a faint smile and said, “What Reverend said is true.”

She looked out at the heavy snow and weakly said, “These snowflakes are so white and so beautiful. But after the sun comes out, each and every one of them will vanish, without a trace. Next winter there will be a lot of snowflakes again, but they will never be like this year’s snow.”

Yideng nodded and turned his head to look at Ci’en. He asked, “Do you understand?”

Ci’en nodded and thought -- when the sun came out, the snow of would disappear, and it snowed in winter. What was so complicated about these simple facts?

Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu had always been close. They understood even the vaguest thought in the other person’s mind. But now that she was conversing with Yideng, he was left aside. It was as if she and Yideng shared the same thoughts, and he himself was an outsider. This had never happened since he fell in love with her, and he was now perplexed.

Yideng took out an egg from his chest and gave it to Xiao Longnu. He said, “Do you know which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

This was an age-old conundrum which nobody could ever solve. Yang Guo thought to himself, “At a time of life and death like this, why are you asking such a question?”

Xiao Longnu accepted the egg. It was actually a porcelain egg but its color looked as if it wasn’t. She paused a little and then clearly understood. She answered, “The egg hatches a chicken. The chicken lays an egg. Where there is life, there must be death.”

She gently crushed the egg shell, and a pill tumbled out. It was a golden and perfectly round ball like an egg yolk. Yideng said, “Eat it, quickly.”

Knowing that this medicine was precious, Xiao Longnu put it in her mouth, chewed, and swallowed.

Early next morning, it was still snowing. Yang Guo thought that the Passionless Valley was quite a distance away. Although Reverend Yideng’s pill gave them seven extra days, they had to go as fast as they possibly could, with not even a bit of delay. He asked Yideng, “Reverend, how’s your injury?”

Yideng’s injury was really heavy but he wanted to save his apprentice brother, Zhu Ziliu and Xiao Longnu and knew that all were urgent matters. His gown sleeves flared out as he said, “It’s not a problem.” He drew in air and sprang forward, covering over ten feet in one leap. The three people followed.

After taking the pill, Xiao Longnu felt a surge of warmth in her abdomen and her strength returning. With her lightness skills, she caught up with Reverend Yideng in no time. Ci’en was startled. This timid young lady actually had quite an awesome kungfu. Suddenly his competitive spirit rose. His feet became swift as he gave chase. One person was a Gu Mu disciple of with unparalleled lightness skills. The other was a renowned master nicknamed ‘Iron Palms Floating on Water.’ In a flash the two people had covered twenty, thirty feet, quickly becoming two gray spots on the snow. Yang Guo was afraid that Ci’en would suddenly become evil and hurt Xiao Longnu so he went after them to protect her. His lightness skills were inferior to those of the two people but his inner energy was solid, and his feet were strong. At the beginning, he was a great distance away from them. Less than half an hour later, the two people’s shadows became clearer.

Suddenly he heard Reverend Yideng laughing from behind him. Yideng said, “Young gentleman’s inner energy is so profound. This really is rare. May I ask who your master is?”

Yang Guo slowed down to move side by side with him. He replied, “My wife taught me my martial skills.” Yideng asked in wonder, “Is she as good as you?”

Yang Guo said, “For these past few months, my inner energy has somehow kept increasing. I myself don’t understand why.”

Yideng asked, “Is it possible that you’ve taken some kind of medicine that boosts inner energy? Perhaps shaped ginsengs or millennium mushrooms?”

Yang Guo shook his head and said, “I had dozens of snake gallbladders. Since then, my strength has skyrocketed. Do you think they are related?”

Yideng said, “Snake gallbladders? Snake gallbladders can cure rheumatism. They have nothing to do with inner strength.”

Yang Guo said, “These gallbladders were from very strange poisonous snakes. Their scales glittered like gold, and their heads were crested. The shape was really weird.”

Yideng paused for a bit and suddenly said, “Ah, they are the ‘pu-si-qu’ snakes, mentioned in a Buddhist record. They said these snakes lived underground, moved like a wind, and were extremely difficult to catch.”

Yang Guo said, “A big eagle caught them for me.”

“That really is the strangest thing in the world.” Yideng exclaimed.

While the two people talked, their feet didn’t slow down at all. After a while, they were nearing Xiao Longnu and Ci’en. Yideng and Yang Guo exchanged a smile. Even though their lightness skills were inferior to those of Xiao Longnu and Ci’en, speed declined with increasing distance, and it was then up to their inner energy. By this time, because her inner energy was inferior, Xiao Longnu had already dropped some ten feet behind Ci’en. And as soon as they rounded the mountain, Yang Guo pointed ahead and said, “Eh, how come there are three people?”

It looked like someone was closely trailing Xiao Longnu. Yang Guo took a look and sensed that this person’s lightness skills were not less than those of Xiao Longnu and Ci’en. On his back he was carrying something that looked like a trunk yet his feet were still swift, and he was always twenty or thirty feet behind Xiao Longnu. Yideng was also puzzled. Surprisingly there was another skilled master on this wild mountain. Last night he ran into this pair of young and elegant couple. Today he saw this person, obviously an old man.

Not long after being overtaken by Ci’en, the distance between Ci'en and Xiao Longnu widened. She heard the sounds of footsteps from behind and thought it was Yang Guo. She said, “Guo’er, that monk’s lightness skills are incredible. I can’t beat him. You go try.”

The person laughed and said, “Come sit on this trunk and gather your strength. You don’t have to fear that old monk.”

Hearing the words, Xiao Longnu was puzzled. She turned her head back and saw a man with a white beard and hair. It was the Old Urchin Zhou Botong.

With a laugh, he pointed at the trunk he’d been carrying on his back and said, “Come … come … come!” In this trunk was the stuff that had been in the Sacred Scripture Chamber of the Chongyang Palace and looked like it was filled with the Quanzhen sect’s Taoist scrolls. Zhou Botong had brought it with him on his back. Xiao Longnu faintly smiled but said nothing. Zhou Botong suddenly dashed forward. He grabbed her with one arm and put her on the trunk. His body movements were so fast and his hand technique was so strange that Xiao Longnu couldn’t even resist. While carrying the wooden trunk, he  couldn’t  help thinking, “The Quanzhen sect is known throughout the world as an orthodox martial school. The Taoists at the Chongyang Palace couldn’t defeat me. It must be because  they  hadn’t  learned  the  essence  of  their sect’s martial skills.”

By now Yang Guo and Yideng had recognized Zhou Botong. Ci’en was concentrating on rushing forwards for fear that Xiao Longnu would catch up with him, and so he was the only person who didn’t know that there was another person behind him.

Zhou Botong followed him in big strides and said, “Another half an hour, he’ll slow down.” With a smiled Xiao Longnu asked, “How do you know?”

Zhou Botong said, “I’ve fought with him, pursuing him from Zhongyuan [China] to the Western region and from the Western region back to Zhongyuan. After running around for tens of thousands of li, how could I not know?”

Sitting on the trunk, Xiao Longnu was both secure and comfortable, just like riding a horse. She softly asked, “Old Urchin, why are you helping me?”

Zhou Botong replied, “You are quite likeable, not like that crafty and strange Huang Rong. I stole your bee honey, and you are not mad.”

They ran for another half an hour. And just like Zhou Botong had predicted, Ci’en started to slow down. Zhou Botong said, “You are off!”

He shrugged his shoulders, sending Xiao Longnu out over ten feet. Energy was sent to her feet, and she ran forwards. In just a moment she caught up with Ci’en and giggled. Startled, Ci'en sped up. But the two people’s lightness skills were about the same level. One person had just had a long rest while the other had been running non-stop. The more they ran the further the distance between them. Ci’en had no way to catch up.

In his whole life, Ci’en had two of martial skills that no one in the world could compare but, in just one day and one night, his ‘Iron Palms’ was defeated by Yang Guo and his lightness skills were outmatched by Xiao Longnu’s. He couldn’t help becoming depressed. Sensing that his legs were about to give out, he thought to himself in alarm, “I can’t even defeat a young girl, can it be that my death is near?”

Last night he had his evil spell. After injuring his master, he had become restless. Just now he’d used all his strength in a lightness kungfu competition with Xiao Longnu and still lost. Even though his mind was troubled, he felt like all things in the world no longer made sense.

Observing them from behind, Yang Guo clearly understood. Seeing that Zhou Botong had secretly helped Xiao Longnu defeating Ci’en, his interest was piqued. He sped up to walk side by side with him  and laughingly said, “Senior Zhou, many thanks.”

Zhou Botong said, “Haven’t seen this Qiu Qianren for a long time. The older he is, the crazier. How come he’s shaved his head and become a monk?”

Yang Guo said, “He’s now Reverend Yideng’s disciple, don’t you know?”

Having said this, he pointed to the back. Zhou Botong was horrified, crying out, “Emperor Duan is here too?”

He turned his head back and saw Yideng from a distance. He said, “I’ve got to run.”

Then he immediately fled into the woods. Yang Guo didn’t know who ‘Emperor Duan’ was. He only saw the trees and bushes moving. Zhou Botong had disappeared without a trace. Yang Guo thought to himself, “This person is so strange. There aren’t many like him in the world.”

As soon as Zhou Botong ran away, Yideng quickly stepped forward. Seeing that Ci’en looked withered and broken and all his earlier bravado had vanished, Yideng said, “With all your victories, how come you haven’t figured this out?”

Disheartened, Ci’en didn’t say a word.

Yideng continued, “You were blinded by your desires. With your strong martial skills, if not for your lust to win, how could you not know there was another person behind?”

The four of them traveled with haste, and the next five days flew by quickly. On the morning of the sixth day, Yideng’s injury worsened, and he could barely support himself. Yang Guo said, “Reverend, please take a rest for a moment. Let your body recover. The Passionless Valley isn’t very far from here. We, husband and wife, will hurry into the Valley with Reverend Ci’en and we’ll rescue the Divine Monk and Uncle Zhu too.”

Yideng faintly smiled and said, “I can’t put my mind at ease.”

He paused and then continued, “It’s dangerous in the valley. I’d better come along.”

Ci’en said, “I’ll carry you.” Having said that he put Yideng on his back and marched forward in big strides.

They arrived at the valley entrance in the afternoon. Yang Guo turned to Ci’en and said, “Should we let them know we are here so your sister can come out to greet you?”

Ci’en was nervous and had yet to reply. Suddenly he heard the faint sounds of clashing weapons. Ci’en thought about his sister and was afraid that she would be fighting with Wu Santong and the others. No matter who was injured, it would be quite bad. He said, “We must rush to stop them.”

With his lightness kungfu he sped up. He was not fully familiar with the roads to the valley, and Yang Guo pointed in one direction.

The four of them rushed forward only to see seven or eight people in green holding their weapons, defending themselves just outside the woods. They heard the sounds of clashing weapons but couldn’t see who the people in green were actually fighting with.

Seeing that there were more enemies coming, the valley disciples in green gave out a shout and charged forward. But as soon as they got closer and recognized Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu, they halted. The leading disciple walked over and raised his sword to greet them. He said, “Have you already accomplished our chief mother’s task?”

But Yang Guo asked, “Who are the people fighting in the woods?”

That disciple in green did not reply. Instead, he narrowed his eyes, not knowing whether Yang Guo had come with a good or bad intention.

With a faint smile Yang Guo said, “I (little brother) didn’t come here to cause harm. Is Madame Gongsun well? Is Miss Gongsun all right?”

That disciple’s hostility was somewhat resolved. He said, “Bless you. Chief mother and Miss Gongsun are well.” Then he asked, “Who are these two monks?” Did they come with the four women?”

Yang Guo said, “What four women?”

That disciple replied, “They were actually two groups of two, barging in here. Chief mother ordered us to stop them but they wouldn’t listen. Both groups went into the Passion Flower field. But as soon as the two groups saw each other, they started fighting.”

Hearing him mention ‘Passion Flower field,’ Yang Guo was startled, not knowing which four women he was talking about. If they were  Huang Rong, Guo Fu, Wanyan Ping, and Yelu Yan, how could they be fighting? So he said, “May I ask you to lead me there? If I (little brother) know them, I may be able to break up the fight before going with them to greet the Chief.”

That disciple thought that the four women had already been detained anyway and that if he let Yang Guo see them, it would only show him the power of the Passionless Valley. So he led the four people into the woods, where they saw the two groups of women fighting.

Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were secretly alarmed. The four women were standing on a narrow strip of lawn about twenty feet long, encircled with row upon row of Passion Flowers. No matter from which direction they tried to come out, there would be seventy or eighty feet of Passion Flowers blocking them. And no matter how powerful their kungfu was, they still wouldn’t be able to escape. Even a halfway jump would still be very difficult.

Xiao Longnu cried out, “It’s my martial sister!”

To the south they saw two women, Li Mochou and her disciple Hong Lingbo. The two of them were using long swords because Li Mochou’s fly whisk had been broken at Gu Mu.

They were fighting with another two women. One was holding the Willow Leaf saber, the other wielding a flute. The two girl’s movements were swift and elegant, showing that their martial skills were not weak. Still, they couldn’t match Li Mochou.

Yang Guo was alarmed and thought, “Aren’t those the Cheng-Lu cousins?” Now, Hong Lingbo slanted her body to attack. The young lady in yellow turned her head halfway backwards, and the one in purple dress also turned her body sideway. These girls were Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang.

The four people’s fighting on a lawn this size was like holding a martial arts contest in a very small arena. The terrain was limited, not  allowing for trivial mistakes.  As if  they were  tied  hand and feet, the  four people couldn’t unleash the power of their kungfu. It was fortunate that Li Mochou wasn’t used to her new sword and that, with her former ties with Lu Wushuang, Hong Lingbo didn’t really have a murderous intention. And so, even though the Cheng-Lu cousins were much inferior, they could still hold their own against their opponents.

Yang Guo asked the disciple in green, “How did the four people get in there to fight in the first place?”

The disciple in green was very pleased with himself and proudly replied, “This was Chief Gongsun’s creation. We led them into this Passion Flower field and then piled up the flowers, blocking the entrance. How would they come out?”

Yang Guo quickly asked, “Have they been poisoned?”

“Looks like they haven’t but it won’t take long,” replied that man in green.

Yang Guo thought to himself, “With your martial skills alone, how could you force Li Mochou into the Passion Flower field? Oh, you must have used your sect’s evil fishnet. If the Cheng-Lu girls get poisoned, there won’t be any antidote in the world to cure them.”

And so, he immediately raised his voice, “Sister Cheng, Sister Lu, I'm right here. The flowers around you are deadly poisonous. You must be careful absolutely.”

Li Mochou had noticed earlier that the Passion Flowers looked strange. On top of that, those disciples in green had used the flowers to block their way out, so she knew there had to be a reason. After entering the Passion Flower field, she warned Hong Lingbo to be very careful and keep away from the Passion Flowers. Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang were both skilled and clever, how could they not see the danger? The four people had originally thought there were some kinds of traps or poisoned arrows hidden in the flower shrubs. Now that they heard Yang Guo’s words, they dreaded the flowers around them even more. They all inched closer towards the center of the lawn, their bodies colliding. The fight became even more vicious.

Hearing Yang Guo calling them, Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang were delighted. They wanted to rush out to see him but the enemies were vicious, not allowing them to withdraw. Li Mochou actually wanted to kill the two girls so she could use their bodies as stepping stones to escape from the Passion Flower field. When she saw Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu, she was frightened. Luckily, they were separated by the Passion Flowers and so Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu couldn’t come in to help the two girls. She fiercely shouted, “Lingbo, if you still don’t fight with all your strength, you yourself will die in here.”

“Yes, Master!” Hong Lingbo quickly replied, adding more strength to her sword and driving it towards Cheng Ying.

Cheng Ying raised her flute to block the strike but Li Mochou’s long sword flew towards her throat. Lu Wushuang lunged forwards, raising her saber. Li Mochou sneered, blocking the saber with her long sword. Her left leg then flew up, kicking Lu Wushuang’s wrist and sending her Willow Leaf saber into a Passion Flower shrub. Suddenly lights flashed. Li Mochou swung her sword three times at Cheng Ying. Unable to withstand the force, Cheng Ying had to move backwards. At this point, if she fell back one more step, her left foot would land on a flower shrub.

Lu Wushuang cried out in alarm, “Sister (cousin), you can’t move back any further.”

With a cold laugh Li Mochou said, “You can’t move back any further. Then let’s move forward.” Having said that, she allowed Cheng Ying one step forward. Cheng Ying knew full well that Li Mochou didn’t mean well but she herself was dangerously cornered. She had no choice but to move forwards.

Li Mochou sneered and said, “Really very brave!” Her long sword vibrated. Silver lights flashed, and her sword tip reached the upper part of Cheng Ying’s body.

Yang Guo was observing them from outside and understood that Li Mochou was using one of Gu Mu’s vicious sword techniques called “Cold Moon Attack”. If one didn’t understand the intricacies of the stances, he was likely to deplete his energy guarding the upper body and leaving his abdomen vulnerable. Seeing that Cheng Ying was busy protecting her chest, he quickly picked up a pebble from the ground, placing it between his thumb and middle finger. Then, with a whishing sound, the pebble was shot out fiercely, straight towards Li Mochou’s eyes. Li Mochou’s sword had already moved downwards and was only a few inches away from Cheng Ying’s abdomen. Suddenly seeing a pebble flying her way, she had to let the enemy off and swung her sword back to hit the pebble. What Yang Guo just displayed was Huang Yaoshi’s “Divine Flicking Finger” skill. But his cultivated energy hadn’t reached its peak so he could only use this technique to divert the enemy, forcing her to be on the defensive. If it were Huang Yaoshi himself flicking the pebble, he would have knocked Li Mochou’s sword loose, and it would have been almost impossible to miss the target at this range. It was fortunate that he taught Yang Guo this technique because it came back to save the life of his own disciple. But even so, Yang Guo and Cheng Ying were already drenched in a cold sweat.

Cheng Ying had just narrowly escaped death, color draining from her white and tender cheeks. Li Mochou knew that she was still in shock, and so she shouted, “Here I come again!” The long sword vibrated as she used the “Cold Moon Attack” technique once again. Cheng Ying was clever, knowing that the upper body attack was a fake and the middle body strike was real, and so she immediately protected her abdomen. Who would have thought that Li Mochou would slyly change her stance? While her sword tip pointed at Cheng Ying’s abdomen, she dashed forwards, stretching out her left hand to seal the ‘Jade Hall’ point on Cheng Ying’s chest. Then her left leg swept out to kick Lu Wushuang and at the same time the tip of her foot struck the ‘Sun’ point on the side of Cheng Ying’s  knee.  These  few  stances  were  incredibly  fast, sending both Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang to the ground. Yang Guo definitely couldn’t help them both.

Li Mochou then grabbed Cheng Ying’s back and threw her out with force. She  did  the  same  to  Lu Wushuang and shouted, “Lingbo, step on their bodies…”

Before she could finish saying that, Yang Guo jumped in to grab Cheng Ying and moved forwards. Even though the accupoints on her chest and leg had been sealed, she could use her free arms to grasp Lu Wushuang.

She cried out, “Brother Yang, you...”

She had always had deep feelings for Yang Guo. And now she saw him jumping into the Passion Flower field, giving up his life to save hers, she was all overwhelmed.

Having grabbed the two girls, Yang Guo leapt back out and gently put them on the ground. With her stiff legs, Cheng Ying couldn’t stand by herself. Xiao Longnu unsealed her pressure points. Then the three girls all looked at Yang Guo. His pants were ripped by the poisonous thorns, blood dripping from his thighs and calf’s. Nobody knew how much poison had entered his body.

While Cheng Ying wept, Lu Wushuang said, “You… you… didn’t have to save me. Who told you to do this?”

With a bright smile Yang Guo said, “I’ve already got the passion flower poison in my body, a little more makes no difference.”

But everybody knew that the amount of poison in his body really made a big difference. He only said this to comfort the three girls in front of him.

Cheng Ying looked at Yang Guo’s empty right sleeve with tears in her eyes. Lu Wushuang said, “Sha Dan (Dumb Egg), your… your right arm? How did you lose it?”

Seeing that the two girls were extremely worried about Yang Guo, Xiao Longnu immediately thought of them as very good friends. With a smile she said, “He’s not dumb, why do you call him dumb egg?”

Lu Wushuang let out an ‘ah’ sound and apologetically said, “I used to call him that. It’s hard to change.” She looked at Cheng Ying and asked, “And this sister is?”

Yang Guo replied, “This is...”

Cheng Ying quickly said, “This sister’s name must be Xiao Longnu.”

“Right. I should have known, seeing how angelic she is.” Lu Wushuang said.

With the knowledge that Yang Guo only had Xiao Longnu on his mind, the two Cheng-Lu girls had been jealous. Now that they actually met Xiao Longnu, they couldn’t help feeling inferior. Both thought to themselves, “How can I ever compare to her?”

Lu Wushuang asked, “Brother Yang, what’s happened to your arm? Has the wound healed?” “It’s already healed. Someone cut it off,” replied Yang Guo.

Lu Wushuang asked angrily, “Which evil villain did it? That person must have used a low and despicable trick. Was it that wretched witch?”

Suddenly a cold voice from behind said, “You defame people behind their back. Isn’t that lower and more despicable?” Lu Wushuang was startled. She turned head back and saw a beautiful young girl. It was Guo Fu with a sword in her hand, looking enraged. Standing by her were several men and women.

Lu Wushuang was puzzled. She said, “I didn’t scold you. I was scolding the evil person who cut off Brother Yang’s arm.”

With a ‘shua’ sound, Guo Fu pulled her sword halfway from its sheath. She said, “His arm was cut off by me. I’ve already apologized, and my parents have already punished me. Now you people are scolding me behind my back…” Having said this, her eyes turned red. She felt she was wronged by these people.

Days ago Wu Santong, Guo Fu, Yelu Qi, and the Wu brothers hid from the mountain fires in the creek. They waited for the fires to die down and then got out of the water to meet with Huang Rong, Wanyan Ping and Yelu Yan. They then all came to the Passionless Valley. The group arrived here long before Yang Guo and the others but they were searching the areas around the valley, trying to find the Indian monk and Zhu Ziliu, without any success. That’s why they were delayed. As for Li Mochou, her disciple, and the Cheng-Lu cousins, they were led into the valley by Zhou Botong.

Huang Rong, Wu Santong and the others quickly went to greet Reverend Yideng, and they all exchanged greetings. Although Cheng Ying had never met Huang Rong before, she knew this martial  sister  by reputation and greatly admired her. She immediately went over and kowtowed with utmost respect. She called out, “Martial sister!”

Knowing from Yang Guo that years ago her father had accepted another female disciple, now she found out that it was this extremely beautiful girl. As Huang Rong asked about her father and learned that he was strong and healthy, she was delighted.

The disciples in green had been watching them from the edge of the woods. Now seeing that the enemies from outside all gathered, making a noisy commotion, they didn’t dare to block them. Instead, they ran back to report the matter to Qiu Qianchi.

Guo Fu and Lu Wushuang glared at each other angrily, with mutual hatred. As Guo Fu heard her mother order her to greet Cheng Ying, she was not pleased at all. She had to force herself to say ‘Martial Uncle’.”

Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu were standing in each other’s arms on the other side. Yang Guo looked at Guo Xiang in Xiao Longnu’s arms and said, “Long’er, let’s give the little girl back to her mother.”

Xiao Longnu lifted up Guo Xiang and kissed her on the cheek. Then she walked over to hand the little girl back to Huang Rong. She said, “Madame Guo, your child.”

Huang Rong thanked her and took the little girl. From the time the girl was born until now, this was the first time Huang Rong had her child firmly in her hands. There were no words that could describe her happiness and joy.

Yang Guo turned to Guo Fu and clearly said, “Miss Guo, your little sister is well. I didn’t use her to trade for the antidote to save my life.”

Guo Fu retorted angrily, “My mother is here. Of course, you don’t dare to. But if you didn’t have such intention, what did you bring my sister here for?”

In this situation, Yang Guo in the former days would have quarreled with her. But his encounters with life and death during these past few months had changed him. Paying no attention to her, he only let out a dry laugh and walked away with Xiao Longnu.

Lu Wushuang looked at  Guo Xiang and said  to Cheng Ying, “Is  this your martial sister’s  little girl? I hope she won’t grow up to be evil and vicious.”

It was impossible for Guo Fu to not understand that the words were meant to attack  her,  and  so  she retorted, “What business of yours is it if my sister becomes evil and vicious? What are you trying to say?”

Lu Wushuang said, “I didn’t speak to you. Everybody has the right to deal with evil and vicious people. How could it not be my business?” Lu Wushuang only had Yang Guo on her mind. Having seen that Yang Guo’s arm was chopped off, she and Cheng Ying were very angry. But she couldn’t control her temper like her cousin did. Even though it was in front of many people, she still had to let it show.

Guo Fu was furious. Grabbing her sword, she shouted, “You cripple...” Huang Rong yelled, “Fu’er, don’t be rude!”

At this time, they all heard a loud ‘ah’ cry from the distance. They turned their heads back towards the Passion Flower field and saw Li Mochou hoisting Hong Lingbo’s body high up in the air. The sound they heard just now was Hong Lingbo’s cry. While people had been busy arguing, they forgot all about Li Mochou and her disciple who were stuck in the sea of flowers. Startled, Lu Wushuang cried out, “Rats. Master is using her disciple as a stepping stone. Quick, we have to find a way to help...”

While the people outside were staring in confusion, Li Mochou suddenly threw Hong Lingbo out. As the body fell into the Passion Flower shrubs, Li Mochou sprang up, her left foot stepping on Hong Lingbo’s chest. She then jumped up again with both legs high in the air, and her right hand grabbing and hurling Hong Lingbo out one more time. Again, she descended on top of her disciple’s body.

She used this “Strength Borrowing” tactic twice, expecting to fall outside the flower shrubs on her third jump. Afraid that Huang Rong would be waiting to block her, she flew out again in the opposite direction, away from the group of people. But this time as her body shot up, Hong Lingbo suddenly gave out a loud cry and leapt up with her, grasping Li Mochou’s left leg. Losing her momentum, Li Mochou started to sink. Then her right leg shot out, kicking Hong Lingbo in the chest with a ‘peng’ sound. This kick was lethal, destroying Hong Lingbo’s internal organs and killing her instantly. Somehow, Hong Lingbo’s hands were still gripping Li Mochou’s leg, and the two of them plunged down together, falling into the flower shrubs just two feet short of the edge of the flower bed. When Li Mochou landed she received an unimaginable amount of poison which surged into her body.

Everybody was shocked speechless, staring wide-eyed at this sadly horrifying development. Lu Wushuang thought about how her martial sister used to take care of her. Grief-stricken, she wept loudly and cried out, “Martial sister, martial sister!”

Yang Guo remembered how years ago he’d played tricks on Hong Lingbo. He couldn’t help feeling heavyhearted.

Li Mochou bent down to pry away Hong Lingbo’s hands and saw that her open eyes were filled with hatred. She thought to herself, “I’ve been poisoned by the Passion Flowers. The antidote surely must be here in the valley.” As she was about to walk around the piles of flowers and be on her way, she suddenly heard Huang Rong calling out, “Sister Li, please come over here. I have a few words to say to you.” Li Mochou was surprised, and with a slight hesitation, she moved forwards twenty or thirty feet. “What?” She asked. She secretly hoped that Huang Rong would give her the antidote, or at least tell her how to find it.

“You didn’t need to kill your disciple to leave the flower thicket,” said Huang Rong. Li Mochou reached for her sword and coldly said, “Are you trying to teach me?”

With a faint smile Huang Rong replied, “I wouldn’t dare to. I’m only going to tell you one thing. You should have used your long sword to dig up the soil and wrapped it with your outer gown, making two very large balls. And if you had thrown them into the flower thicket, wouldn’t they have made good stepping stones? Not only could you have gotten out safely, you wouldn’t have had to hurt anyone.”

Li Mochou’s face color changed from white to red and then red to white. She was struck by enormous grief. What Huang Rong had just explained was really not difficult, but because she was anxious, she couldn’t figure it out. Instead, she had just killed the only person in the world that mattered and actually fallen to her own doom. She couldn’t help saying bitterly, “No matter, it’s already too late.”

Huang Rong said, “Yes. It’s way too late. Really, whether or not you are poisoned by the Passion Flowers makes no difference.”

Li Mochou stared fixedly at her, not understanding the meaning of her words.

Huang Rong added, “You’ve already been poisoned by your own foolish, unrestrained passion. You hurt people, and so you hurt yourself. As of now…” Huang Rong sighed. “It is way too late.”

Li Mochou turned arrogant. She said in a stern voice, “It was I who gave my disciple her life. Had it not been for me taking care of her since childhood, she wouldn’t have lived until today. I gave her life. I then gave her death. It was only fair.”

Huang Rong said, “Parents give life to their own children. Yet, they have no right to kill them. Who are you to think that you do?”

Wu Xiuwen held out his sword and shouted, “Li Mochou, today you’ll pay for your innumerable crimes. There’s no need for more talking. We’ll fight.”

Then the six of them – Wu Xiuwen, Wu Dunru, Wu Santong, Yelu Qi, Yelu Yan, and Guo Fu – arranged themselves in two lines and marched forward.

Armed with a saber and a flute, Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang moved a couple of steps forward. Lu Wushuang said, “You slaughtered my whole family, today your one life is way too cheap. Worse, you had to be so evil, killing Sister Hong. Your death won’t even cover it.” Guo Fu turned to Lu Wushuang and said with a sneer, “You’ve got such a good master!”

Lu Wushuang returned the stare and said, “Even if someone with a big backer, does evil things, she should die just the same! You don’t need to look to this demoness for an example!”

As Li Mochou heard Lu Wushuang mention “a backer,” something came to her mind. She raised her voice and called out, “Little martial sister, have you completely forgotten our martial ties?”

She had roamed Jianghu all her life and never paid attention to anyone. This time she was asking Xiao Longnu for help. It could only mean that she had realized how grave her situation was. Besides, after killing Hong Lingbo, she felt a pang of guilt, her mind became disturbed.

Xiao Longnu didn’t know how to reply but Yang Guo retorted, “You treacherously killed your own disciple; how could you mention any martial ties?”

“So be it!” Li Mochou said with a sigh. Swinging her long sword, she said, “You all come at once. The more people the better.”

The Wu brothers pulled out their swords. On the left side Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang both lunged forwards. Wu Santong, Yelu Qi and the others also held their weapons at the ready. Having seen the way she despicably killed Hong Lingbo just now, everybody was extremely hate filled and disgusted. Even Reverend Yideng thought that if Li Mochou was allowed to live, she would only murder more people. But the ‘ding dang’ sounds of clashing weapons went on. Li Mochou’s martial skills were high and she disrupted the many people’s offense in a flash.

Suddenly Li Mochou’s left hand flew out. She shouted, “Projectiles!”

Knowing that her “Soul Freezing Needles” were deadly, all of them all froze stiff, only to see her body spring up and fall into the Passion Flower thicket. They couldn’t help crying out in alarm. Li Mochou did this because she already had the poison in her body and she thought that if she got pricked again, it wouldn’t be much worse. Even Huang Rong and Yang Guo hadn’t expected this. They all saw her return through the flower thicket and then went straight into the woods.

Wu Xiuwen said, “We pursue!”

Brandishing his long sword, he made a detour and followed Li Mochou into the woods from the east side. But the pathways in the woods were winding, with sharp turns. Only twenty or thirty feet in there, he ran into a three-way junction. While still hesitating, he suddenly saw five girls dressed in green coming out. The one in front was holding a flower in her hand, and the other four trailing behind wore long swords at their waists.

The girl in front asked, “The Valley Chief requests your presence. Would you please come with us?” Yang Guo saw her from afar so he called out, “Miss Gongsun, it’s us.”

That girl was of course Gongsun Lu’E. Upon hearing Yang Guo’s voice, she lost her composure and quickly stepped forwards. Happily she said, “Big Brother Yang, have you accomplished your big task? Let’s quickly go see my mother.”

“Miss Gongsun, let me introduce you to these several elders,” said Yang Guo. He first introduced her to Reverend Yideng, and then Ci’en and Huang Rong.

Gongsun Lu’E did not know that the monk in black in front of her was her own uncle, and so she walked over to pay him respect without much thought. But then she heard Yang Guo address Huang Rong as Madame Guo. She knew that this person was her mother’s personal enemy. Not only had Yang Guo not killed her, he led her into the valley. Greatly suspicious, she moved a couple of steps backwards, refusing to greet her. She said, “My mother invites everybody for tea in the main hall.”

She thought to herself that she’d better do as her mother had ordered, so she led the many people to the main hall.

In the hall, Qiu Qianchi was sitting in a chair. She said, “This old woman’s limbs are disabled. I can’t get up to welcome you. Please accept my apology.”

Ci’en remembered his little sister. At the time she married Gongsun Zhi, she was a fledgling girl of eighteen, full of tenderness and grace. Nobody could have imagined that she would turn into an old, bald, wrinkled, ugly woman like this. He thought of the past and felt at a loss.

Yideng saw the strange gleam in his eyes and couldn’t help being worried. In his life, the only worry he had left was this disciple who still couldn’t wake up and turn a new leaf. This was because Ci’en’s kungfu was profound. Years ago, he was an unmatched master in the martial realm, and so his deep attachment to the past made change even more difficult. Over the past ten years, he’d lived in seclusion on a remote mountain and had calmed down. But this time when he stepped back into Jianghu, he ran into things that reminded him of the past. There was a saying that “He, who never encounters desires, will have a peaceful heart.” And so, when running into things that triggered a worldly desire, his mind would become disturbed, how would Ci'en be able to control himself? Yideng had brought Ci’en with him to the Passionless Valley this time because he wanted to help his martial brother and Zhu Ziliu. But it was also very hard on Ci’en because his mind was greatly afflicted.

Because Yang Guo didn’t return to the Passionless Valley in time, Qiu Qianchi had thought that he had already died from the poison. Suddenly seeing him still alive and well, standing before her, she was puzzled. She asked, “You are not dead yet?”

“I’ve taken an antidote. Your flower poison is now gone.” Yang Guo said with a laugh.

Qiu Qianchi made a surprised sound. She thought to herself, “Surprisingly, there is an antidote that can detoxify the Passion Flower Poison. How strange...”

But suddenly she figured it out. With a sneer she said, “What kind of lie is this? If there really was an antidote, why would that Indian monk and that Zhu person have come here?”

Yang Guo said, “Senior Qiu, where did you imprison the Indian monk and  Senior  Zhu?  I  (junior)  am already here. Please let them go!”

With a sneer Qiu Qianchi said, “To tie a tiger is easy; to let it go is hard!”

These words of hers actually made sense. All her four limbs were disabled, and so she could only rely on her sect’s fishnets to capture the Indian monk and Zhu Ziliu. If released, the Indian monk would be all right because he didn’t know kungfu but Zhu Ziliu would definitely retaliate. None of the disciples of the Passionless Valley was his match.

Yang Guo thought that if she saw her elder brother, their blood ties would make things friendlier. And so, he said with a faint smile, “Senior Qiu, please look at us carefully. Who did I bring back here? I’m sure you’ll be delighted.”

For decades Qiu Qianchi hadn’t seen her brother. Although she knew that he had become a monk, in her mind she only remembered him as a victorious and courageous youth. How would she be able to recognize this old monk? Hearing from her daughter that Huang Rong, her own personal enemy, had arrived, her eyes scanned the faces of many people and finally came to stop on Huang Rong.

Clenching her teeth, Qiu Qianchi said, “You are Huang Rong. My elder brother died at your hand.”

Yang Guo was startled. His original intention was to have the brother and sister meet. Instead, she recognized her archenemy. He quickly said, “Senior Qiu, we’ll put that on abeyance for now. Won’t you take a look again to see who else is here?”

Qiu Qianchi shouted, “You mean Guo Jing is here too? How wonderful… how wonderful!”

Then she looked at Wu Santong and Yelu Qi. One was too old, the other too young, looking not quite right. Frustrated, she searched for Guo Jing among the many people. Then her eyes met with those of Ci’en. They exchanged a stare, finally recognizing each other.

Ci’en jumped forward and cried out, “Third sister!”

Qiu Qianchi also gave out a loud cry, “Second brother!”

The two of them had countless things to say to each other, yet at this time they couldn’t think of anything to say.

A while passed, and then Qiu Qianchi asked, “Second brother, how did you become a monk?” Ci’en asked back, “Third sister, how did your limbs become disabled?”

“It was that villain Gongsun Zhi who did it,” replied Qiu Qianchi.

Ci’en said in alarm, “Gongsun Zhi? It was your husband? Where is he right now?”

Qiu Qianchi said bitterly, “Why do you still call him 'my husband’? The traitor has a wolf’s heart and dog’s lungs. He plotted against me.”

Unable to suppress his anger, Ci'en cried out, “Where did the villain go? I’ll tear him to shreds, and make it up to you.” Qiu Qianchi coldly said, “Although I was the subject of an evil plan, luckily I could escape death. Our big brother, on the other hand, was already murdered.”

Ci’en said darkly, “Right!”

Qiu Qianchi gathered her chi and ferociously shouted, “Your body is skilled and able, and why are you not avenging our big brother’s death? Where is your brotherly loyalty?”

Startled, Ci’en muttered, “Avenging our big brother’s death? Avenging our big brother’s death?”

Qiu Qianchi bellowed, “That evil Huang Rong is right in front of you. You kill her first and then go look for Guo Jing.”

Ci’en gazed at Huang Rong, with a strange gleam in his eyes.

Yideng slowly stepped forwards and softly said, “Ci’en, how can a monk have murderous thoughts? The fact is that your brother brought about his own death, you can't blame other people.”

Ci'en nodded and was lost in thought. After a while, he said in a low voice, “What my master said is right. Third sister, we can't avenge his death.”

Qiu Qianchi gave Yideng a stare and snarled, “This old monk is spouting nonsense. Second brother, our Qiu family has been brave and heroic. Our big brother was killed. If you don't avenge his death, how can you still call yourself a heroic true man?”

Having heard that, Ci’en’s mind became chaotic. He muttered, “How can I still call myself a heroic true man?”

Qiu Qianchi said, “Right! Years go you roamed Jianghu. The name “Iron Palms Floating on Water” was famous and prestigious. Who would have thought that, in old age, you'd turn into a coward who is afraid of death? Qiu Qianren, I’m telling you now. If you don’t avenge our big brother’s death, do not call me your sister!”

Seeing her become fiercer and fiercer, everyone thought, “This bald old woman is quite lethal.”

Years ago, Huang Rong was struck by Qiu Qianren’s palm. Luckily Reverend Yideng came to her rescue, and so she narrowly escaped death. Naturally she knew him well. As soon as she saw him, she’d already thought about pulling out her horse whip.

Again, Guo Fu couldn’t bear it and shouted, “My mother doesn’t want to stoop to your level. Who’s afraid of you old woman? If you continue to egg people on, I’m going to have to be impolite.”

Huang Rong was about to tell Guo Fu to stop but then she figured, “That Qiu Qianren must be urged by his sister to act. Fu’er’s attack may actually help divert his attention.”

Noticing that her mother didn’t try to stop her, Guo Fu carried on, “We are your guests. Yet, you are not treating us accordingly. Actually, you are rude, how would you call yourself a hero?”

Qiu Qianchi gave her a cold stare and said, “You are Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s daughter, aren’t you?”

Guo Fu replied, “Correct, and if you want to fight, you have to do it yourself. Your brother has already become a monk. How could he ever kill anybody again?”

Qiu Qianchi muttered, “You are Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s daughter. You are Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s...”

She didn’t say the word ‘daughter’ again. Instead, with a ‘hu’ sound, an iron date stone was suddenly spat out from her mouth, violently coming towards Guo Fu. Her words ‘You are Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s daughter’ were followed by ‘You are Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s...” Everybody naturally thought she was going to say ‘daughter.’ None could have thought that in the blink of an eye she would shoot a projectile from her mouth. This sudden date stone kungfu of hers was really ingenious. It even blinded the right eye of Gongsun Zhi, who was a remarkable kungfu master. Guo Fu definitely didn’t stand a chance. She didn’t even have the time to think about dodging the projectile. [Note: Since the last visit to the Passionless Valley, Qiu Qianchi must have had iron date stones made by someone in the valley to increase her ‘fire power’.]

Among all these people, only Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu knew that Qiu Qianchi had such strange kungfu. While Xiao Longnu didn’t think she would harm people, Yang Guo had been paying close attention, his eyes never leaving her face. Seeing that her lips were not about to say the word ‘daughter, he plunged forwards, pulling out the long sword from Guo Fu’s waist and swung it. A dang sound echoed as the iron date stone hit the blade. The sword immediately broke into two pieces before falling on the floor. In one voice, many people cried out in alarm. Huang Rong and Guo Fu were startled, the color draining from their faces.

Huang Rong mused, “I was guarding against her vicious attack but never would I have expected that she could shoot out a ferocious projectile like this without even moving her body, limbs, or neck.”

The iron date stone broke the sword, showing that it was shot out with great force. Everybody understood and thought, “If not for Yang Guo’s interfering, would Miss Guo still be alive? And his movement was so swift that it was really shocking.”

Qiu Qianchi stared at Yang Guo in disbelief. She hadn’t expected him to have the nerve to help Guo Fu. She coldly said, “Today you were poisoned again by the Passion Flower. The poison doesn’t manifest itself now but it will, in less than three days. In the whole world there is only my half-pill here that can save your life. Don’t you believe that?”

At the time Yang Guo jumped in to save Guo Fu, everything happened so fast that he didn’t even think of this matter. As Qiu Qianchi brought it up now, he couldn’t help feeling discouraged.

Stepping forward, he gave her a bow and said, “Senior Qiu, I (junior) haven’t done anything to you. If you give me the pill, I’ll forever be grateful.”

Qiu Qianchi replied, “Never! Although it's true that I have today because of you, this old Qiu has revenge to exact and gratitude can’t be taken into account. You promised me you’d go bring me Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s heads. Then I’d grant you the antidote. Who would think that not only did you not keep your promise, you just saved my personal enemy. What else is there to say?”

Seeing that the matter was escalating, Gongsun Lu’E said, “Mother, my uncle’s death has nothing to do with Big Brother Yang. You… please bestow mercy.”

Qiu Qianchi said, “I’ll only give this half pill to my son-in-law. I’m not going to give it to anybody else.” Having heard this, Gongsun Lu’E blushed furiously in shame and anxiety.

Yang Guo had saved Guo Fu’s life. By this time, she realized that Yang Guo was truly benevolent and really didn’t intend to trade her little sister for the antidote. She thought about how she had repeatedly hurt him but he always returned her viciousness with kindness. In a loud voice she said, “Big Brother Yang, I (little sister) have wronged you. Please forgive me.”

But for some unknown reason, old grudges are hard to let go. As soon as she apologized, she thought, “You saved me because you wanted to show off your ability. You wanted me to submit to you and feel grateful to you. You wanted to show me that even though you had only one arm, you were still much stronger than me with two arms. Humph, isn’t that just great?”

Yang Guo let out a faint sigh, which was actually quite bitter and with no humor. He thought to himself, “How very easy for you to admit that you were wrong. You don’t even know how much suffering you brought on me and Long’er.”

Then he saw that Qiu Qianchi was giving him a fixed stare. Obviously, if he didn’t agree to marry her daughter, she would never give him that half pill to save his life. Again, he refused to compromise and made things awkward for Gongsun Lu’E and Xiao Longnu.

He brightly said, “I’m already married to Long’er. Even I, Yang Guo, am doomed to die, how can I shirk my responsibilities?” Having said this, he turned around, taking Xiao Longnu by hand. While walking to the hall entrance, he thought to himself, “Let them squabble in the hall. I’d better go rescue the Indian monk and Uncle Zhu.”

With a sneer Qiu Qianchi said, “Good, good! You yourself volunteered to die; this has nothing to do with me.”

She turned her head back towards Ci’en and said, “Second brother, I’ve heard that Huang Rong is Chief of the Beggar Clan. We, “Iron Palm Clan”, don’t dare to offend her.”

Ci’en said, “Iron Palm Clan? It’s already been disbanded. How could there still be such a clan?” Qiu Qianchi said, “No wonder, no wonder. You don’t want to fight. You’ve become a coward…”

Qiu Qianchi was still talking but Gongsun Lu’E no longer listened to her. Watching Yang Guo step out of the hall, she suddenly dashed forwards. She cried out, “Yang Guo, you heartless scoundrel, I must have been blind.”

Yang Guo paused in his steps, wondering why this girl, who had always been courteous, was acting out of character. Could it be because she heard that he and Long’er were married and became enraged? He felt a slight regret, and so he turned his back and said, “Miss Gongsun...”

Gongsun Lu’E scolded, “Crafty thief, it’s easy to come into the valley but hard to get out...” But although she was berating him, her facial expression was actually warm and gentle, her eyes conveying a hidden message. Yang Guo knew that there had to be a reason.

In a loud voice he said, “What is it? You say this small Passionless Valley is hard to get out of?” He was facing the main hall. Qiu Qianchi saw him very clearly and therefore didn’t see anything strange.

Lu’E scolded, “I wish I could split you in half. I would rip out your heart so I can see...” She suddenly opened her mouth and, with a puff of air, a date stone was spat out, flying towards Yang Guo’s face.

Yang Guo caught it with his hand. He sneered, “Just let me leave quickly and I won’t hurt you. You think your little skill could stop me?”

Gongsun Lu’E gave him another meaningful glance and let him leave. Suddenly she covered her face with both hands and cried out, “Mother, he… he’s a big bully!” She fled back into the main hall. Her loved one was gone. He had married another girl. This sadness was actually not false.

Seeing tears stream down her face, Qiu Qianchi shouted, “E’er, what’s wrong with you? That boy’s life won’t last very long.” Lu’E crouched down at her mother’s knee and her sobs continued.

Everybody in the hall was deceived by this performance. There was only Huang Rong who secretly thought it to be funny. She mused, “She pretended to be mad at Yang Guo so her mother wouldn't be suspicious and later she could steal the antidote. Who would have thought that this boy Yang Guo would leave a trail of broken hearts behind him everywhere he went. All these beautiful girls pine for him.” Having thought this, she gave Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang a glance.

After catching that date stone, Yang Guo walked out very quickly. Lu’E’s words were very strange, and he still couldn’t figure out her intention. Xiao Longnu saw the expression on Lu’E’s face and knew that her tirade was pretended. She asked, “Guo’er, she pretended to be mad at you. Was it because she was trying to fool her mother so she could steal the antidote?”

Yang Guo replied “It would seem so.”

As soon as the two people rounded a curve in the path and saw that they were alone, Yang Guo raised his hand and looked at the date stone in his palm. It was actually an olive seed, with tiny stitches in the middle. Yang Guo squeezed it with his fingers, breaking it in half. The middle of the seed was actually hollow, with a thin sheet of paper hidden in there.

With a smile Xiao Longnu said, “This girl told you a riddle. She actually meant this when she said ...split you in half. I would rip out your heart so I can see…”

Yang Guo unfolded the thin paper, and the two of them bent their heads to look at the words. The paper read, “Mother hid the half pill in a secret place. I will plan to steal it for you. The Indian monk and senior Zhu are confined in ‘the fire room’. ” (kiln) Next to the characters was a map showing a winding path that ended at ‘the fire room.’

Yang Guo said in delight, “Let us go quickly. It's good that no one is here to stop us right now.”

End of Chapter 30.

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