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

@Chapter 36 – The Birthday Celebration
The following day was the beginning of the Heroes’ Summit. Guo Xiang had decided not to join the feast, so Huang Rong had instructed their kitchen workers to prepare some food for her to have her own feast. Guo Fu had been musing for several days on the possibilities as to how her husband would win the Beggar Clan Chief position, so her sister’s special feast was very far from her mind.

The Heroes’ Summit continued for the next several days. Among other things, they discussed plans on how to unite the valiant and patriotic men and women across the country; plans on how to disrupt the Mongolian troop’s swift movements, and plans on how to reinforce Xiangyang’s defenses. Everything was properly discussed. The attendees were itching to fight the enemy; they were impatient to slaughter the arriving enemy troops. Guo Jing was happy to see the group’s boldness even though he was aware of the strength of the Mongolian army for a long time; definitely not the match for these several thousands Jianghu people. Hence he could not avoid feeling anxious.

The Summit was concluded on the twenty-fourth of the third month, with a very satisfactory result. Just before the closing ceremony, everybody agreed to have the Beggar Clan Chief’s election around noon that very same day. And so it was, right after lunch, everybody headed toward the  field  used  for  military exercises on the west side. Upon arrival, they all saw a huge stage located right in the middle of the field. On and around the stage nothing was set, not a single chair. This was in accordance to the Beggar Clan rules and regulations, no matter how big or how  small  a  meeting  was,  beggars  could  not  lose  their identity by sitting on chairs. Toward the south of the stage there were hundreds of chairs prepared for ‘outsiders’.

Before one o’clock there were more than two thousand Clan members sitting around the stage. They were the higher level members of the clan. The lowest grade was the fourth. According to the Clan bylaws, these two thousand some members were under the direction of four elders.

There were originally four Elders of the Beggar Clan, namely Elder Lu, Elder Jian, Elder Liang and Elder Peng. Lu Youjiao was promoted to be the Clan Leader, but met a tragic end just recently. Elder Peng had become a traitor and was killed by the Monk Ci’en. Elder Jian had died due to his old age and ailments. Therefore, Elder Liang held the highest position in the Clan. He had three eighth grade disciples as the newly appointed Elders assisting him.

The beggars ushered thousands of valiant men and women from the Heroes’ Summit to the chairs. Yelu Qi and his wife Guo Fu, Wu Dunru and his wife Yelu Yan, Wu Xiuwen and his wife Wanyan Ping and the other younger generation sat towards the back. They had trained  hard  for  more  than  ten  years  and  had achieved significant improvements; they secretly wondered if they would have any opportunity to show off their skills in front of the several thousands heroes that day.

Guo Polu was sitting next to his eldest sister, watching this magnificent setting with awe. He whispered, “Second Sister is so weird. Why doesn’t she come and attend this meeting?”

“What’s inside that ‘Little Eastern Heretic’s’ mind, nobody can guess,” Guo Fu snickered.

In not too long, an eighth grade disciple toward the east side stood up and blew a giant shell horn, “whooo

… whooo … whooooo …!” It was the signal that the appointed time had come (it was between one and three in the afternoon).

While the sound of the horn was fading away, Huang Rong leaped on stage and bowed in all directions. She then began her oration with a loud and clear voice. “Today is the big meeting day of our clan. On behalf of the Beggar Clan, I would like to extend our gratitude and respect to all Seniors and Heroes who have made the effort to join us here.” She then bowed one more time, and the guests reciprocated.

“Our beloved leader, the late Chief Lu, was a wise and patriotic man, who devoted his life to the clan and our nation,” Huang Rong continued. “Unfortunately, he was cowardly attacked and killed by that scoundrel Hou Du at the Yang Tai Fu Temple over the hill yonder. This is an un-avenged deep resentment, not mentioning great disgrace to our Clan …”

These words created loud response from the Beggar Clan members. They remembered Lu Youjiao’s benevolent heart, his impartiality and his patriotism. They were very saddened by his death. Some were sobbing loudly, while the others cursed Hou Du uncontrollably.

After the commotion subsided, Huang Rong continued, “By keeping in mind that the Mongols might attack any moment, we have made the decision not to put our Clan’s need above that of our country. Therefore, we will hold the thought of revenge until a more appropriate time, and we will discuss this matter at length after we defeat the enemies.” This statement was met by the unanimous approval of the beggars.

“With Chief Lu’s untimely death comes another more pressing matter,” Huang Rong said, “our Clan member’s number in the tens of thousands, scattered across the country. They cannot be left leaderless. Therefore, we have to elect a new Clan Chief, today. We need someone wise and benevolent, who knows martial arts as well as literature, and who will have the love and respect of our entire clan. As to how we are going to elect such leader, Little sister will have to ask Elder Liang to give us further instructions.”

In another moment Elder Liang stood ready on stage. His hair was silvery-white, but his body still erect and his movements fluid. This Elder was welcomed with loud cheering and applause from the audience. In this gathering of about four or five thousands attendees, the applause resembled the rumble of thunder in the middle of the day.

Elder Liang cupped his fists to thank the people for the applause and after it subsided he said, “Former Chief Huang is exceptionally intelligent. What she just said would not be incorrect. She was just being modest by asking the four elders plus the eight eighth grade members to decide on how to elect the new chief. What ability do we, twelve smelly beggars, have in such an important matter?”

Elder Liang paused for a few seconds. The field was quiet. Everybody was straining their ears to hear what this Elder had to say.

After sending his penetrating gaze across the field, Elder Liang continued, “In our humble opinion, even though the beggars are good for nothing, we do have a great number of members scattered throughout the country. As Former Chief Huang has mentioned, we cannot afford to be without a leader. We need a leader who is wise, benevolent and highly skilled in martial arts and literature. We believe with all of our hearts, that leaders like Former Chief Hong Qigong and Former Chief Huang are one in a million. Leaders like the late Chief Lu, who was loved by all of us. These are not easy to duplicate. Therefore, after a long and careful deliberation, we came to conclusion that the best course to take is to ask Former Chief Huang to get her feet wet and again lead our Clan.” Speaking to this point he paused again because the audience burst out in cheers and applause, even louder than the previous one. The audience thought, “A talented person of Huang Rong’s caliber is not easy to find in the world, let alone within the Beggar Clan.”

Elder Liang waited for the applause to subside; then he continued “If she refuses, then we’ll have to ask again and again. Unfortunately for us, we have a bigger problem threatening our country. The Mongolian armies are attacking Xiangyang and, as a devoted wife as well as a patriot, Former Chief Huang has to stand by the side of Chivalrous Hero Guo (Guo Da Xia) to defeat the enemy and defend our country. This is a formidable task to bear. Thus, if we bother Former Chief Huang with all the nitty-gritty business of the Beggar Clan, wouldn’t the people across the nation curse us stinky beggars until our deaths? And so, after careful consideration, we have made our final decision: Elect a new Chief.”

Elder Liang’s oration was received with nods across the field; the audience thought, “The Beggar Clan truly knows how to place important matters above their own; no wonder they’ve enjoyed the respect of the Jianghu people for hundreds of years.”

“As of now, inside our clan, we do not have someone capable of bearing the burden, and Former Chief Huang herself can not divide her attention for us,” Elder Liang resumed, “The only way we could think of was to invite someone outside our Clan to lead us. This special provision has happened before at the Mount Jun Summit, when we elected Former Chief Huang as our new Chief. As you are all aware, Former Chief Huang was not a member of our Clan. Needless to say, I was not alone in voicing our discontent and that resulted in a battle. What was the outcome? Ha-ha...! We were beaten and could not help but be subdued by her. Very fortunate for us, since once Former Chief Huang took the lead, our Beggar Clan has developed into a great Clan like the one you all see today. I remember…I can still see it clear as day…how at the Mount Jun Summit Former Chief Huang was still in her teens. By using a mere stick she beat us four Elders into submission. Ha! Now THAT was what I call a hero!” [the word ‘hero’ here is Ying Xiong – valiant person, not Xia of Da Xia]

Listening to him, everyone’s eyes turned involuntarily to Huang Rong. There were a number among the beggars who had attended the Mount Jun Summit. Their hearts were beating faster, as they saw in their minds what happened there when they were still very young.

“At today’s meeting we have the valiant people of the Jianghu world in attendance,” Elder Liang continued, “Any one of these valiant people deserves to be our leader. However, with so many valiant people around, we do not know how to pick one. Therefore, again after careful consideration, we twelve smelly beggars, decided on an election method that’s less than perfect. The method is this: We would like the heroes to show their skills on this stage. Who’s strong and who’s weak, will be evident to all.”

His speech was received with a soft murmur from the audience in every direction. Elder Liang continued, “But I want to stress one very important point. In today’s match, as soon as somebody is touched by an opponent, the match has to stop. If anybody is heavily injured or even dies here, we cannot bear the heavy responsibility. If any of you has any grudge against anybody else, we would ask that you do not try to solve the grudge on this stage. If you ignore this warning, then our Clan does not have any choice but to act accordingly.”

Having said this, he again sent his piercing gaze across the field. Elder Liang thought it was necessary to issue this warning, because if blood were involved in the election process, and valiant people fight violently with each other, then Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s effort to unite the country would be in vain. Elder Liang implied that whoever took any advantage to commit murder would be attacked by all the Beggar Clan’s members.

The valiant people in attendance today were aware that the Beggar Clan Chief election would be exciting; listening to Elder Liang’s speech they began to assess their own abilities. The Seniors, like clan or sect leaders, and those who had a high reputations in the Jianghu world, obviously did not want to fight over the Chief position. They had too many things at stake; not only the shame of defeat, but their reputation as well. Only those forty years and younger were excited and wanted to try. But since there were so many other valiant people around, plus the fact they had to win over the hearts of tens of thousands of beggars, nobody was bold enough to step up. They thought that to compete early meant they had to defeat more people.

After waiting some time, there were still no takers, then Elder Liang shouted, “Except for some Seniors and Heroes who live in seclusion, I can safely say that all the valiant people under the sky are gathered here. Whoever is willing to honor our Clan is welcome to give us a lesson or two. Our own Beggar Clan disciples who think they have some ability are also welcome to step up.”

After repeating his invitation several times there came a loud shout; “I am coming!” A shadow was seen jumping on to the stage. The audience was startled. This man was huge, like a giant, maybe over 300 jins; the stage swayed a little bit when he landed. Without showing any respect he put his hands on his hips and said with a loud voice, “I am the Thousand-Jin-Giant, Tong Dahai. I don’t want to be Clan Chief, but who ever want to fight let them come.”

Everybody laughed. They thought they would enjoy a funny show from this silly giant.

“Brother Tong,” said Elder Liang, smiling, “This stage is not a sparring ring. If Brother does not wish to become our Chief, then I would ask that you leave.”

Tong Dahai shook his big head, “This is obviously a sparring ring, who said it is not? If you don’t want a fight, why did you invite people up here?” Before Elder Liang had a chance to respond, he quickly said, “All right. Why don’t you fight me?” Having said this he immediately thrust his fist toward Elder Liang’s face.

Elder Liang leaped back, still smiling, “Brother Tong, I am an old man. How could I face your huge fist?”

The giant laughed heartily. With a delighted look on his face he said, “You go away …” but before he could finish his sentence, a shadow flashed by, and on that stage stood a beggar with ragged clothes.

That beggar was around thirty years of age and had six bags on his back. He was one of Elder Liang’s own grand martial disciples. He was also a rash man that could not contain himself upon seeing Tong Dahai being disrespectful toward his Grand Martial Master. “Brother Tong, you are not worthy to fight my Grand Martial Master,” he said, “Let me accompany you for three stances.”

“Nothing better than that!” the giant shouted, and without asking the beggar’s name, he thrust his fist toward the beggar’s chest, “Watch out!”

The beggar turned his back and “smack!” that fist hit the sack on his back.

Tong Dahai felt his fist was hitting something soft and slippery. “What’s inside your bag?” he asked. The beggar snickered. “What’s a beggar’s usual catch?” he asked in response.

Tong Dahai was shocked. “Snake …!” he cried. “Yes, it’s a snake!” the beggar answered.

Tong Dahai was half disgusted and half furious. He sent another fist toward the beggar’s face. But the beggar was quick. In a flash he leaped high into the air and did a somersault and again turned his back toward the giant.

Tong Dahai was afraid the snake would bite him, or perhaps his fist would hit the snake’s fangs; his movements became awkward since he was trying to avoid hitting the beggar’s back. He delivered a right foot kick instead. The beggar knew the giant was afraid and he wanted to have some fun. While rolling himself on the stage, he quickly took his backpack and placed it on his calf. Actually the snake inside his bag was tame, and it had no venomous teeth, but Tong Dahai did not know this. He was getting anxious because his attacks gave him no desirable results. Suddenly  the  beggar’s  right  hand  grabbed  his  chest. “Wu Zixu lifts high the Thousand-Jin-Giant [play of words: ‘wu zi’ means ‘five kids’],” he said, and lifted the giant’s body high in the air.

Because the ‘zi gong’ [purple palace] accupoint on his chest was sealed, Tong Dahai was helpless, and the audience burst into laughter.

“Let him go! Don’t be rude!” barked Elder Liang, but he could not help laughing too.

“All right,” the beggar complied. He let the giant go, and jumping down from the stage, he vanished amongst the crowd.

Tong Dahai’s face was purple with rage; he was embarrassed and angry at the same time. “Stinky beggar!” he cursed, “Come! Let’s fight again with weapons. What good is running away like that? Stinky Beggar! Sickly Beggar!” The beggars just laughed, and nobody paid him any attention.

Suddenly, another shadow leaped in, and when his left foot reached the stage, he staggered like he was going to fall down.

Tong Dahai was reckless, but not wicked. He shouted, “Watch out!” and immediately moved forward to hold the man. It turned out that the man was only pretending. He wanted to show off in front of all the valiant people. He quickly grabbed the giant’s hand, and pushed  with  the  ‘The  Heavenly  King  Falling Down’ move [dao die jin gang]. Tong Dahai’s body was thrown to the ground. The audience looked at that neatly dressed, long eye-browed handsome young man, who was none other than Wu Xiuwen, Guo Jing’s disciple.

Guo Jing – who sat on the front row, was irritated with Wu Xiuwen’s behavior; his countenance changed. And he was not alone. But before he could do anything, shouts were heard from east and west of the stage: “Good martial arts! Let me accept a lesson or two from you!” “What did you do?” “You repaid kindness with rudeness.” Three men had jumped on stage.

At that time, Wu Xiuwen could be regarded as a first class fighter among the younger generation. Not only had he received tutelage from Guo Jing and Huang Rong, but also the Solitary Yang Finger from his own father and martial uncles. Seeing three men on stage, he was delighted. “Let me beat them once and for all,” he thought.

He didn’t want those three to take turns fighting him, so without saying anything he attacked all three of them. Those three had just landed their feet on the stage, and were attacked before they could get a firm footing. No wonder they wavered and could not defend themselves. Xiuwen didn’t give them a chance. Quick as a flash his fists flew around so that those three felt like they were under a heavy rain of fists. They tried to retaliate, but ended up hitting each other. The audience was surprised and impressed. “Guo Da Xia is really a hero without peer,” they thought, “his disciple is so fierce.”

Those three counter-attacked again and again, but still could not get out from under Wu Xiuwen’s fists. Wanyan Ping saw her husband had the upper hand and could not help but feel so proud.

“Of course those three dummies are not Brother Xiuwen’s match,” said Guo Fu. “Why did he go on stage and waste his energy for nothing? When someone with a really high skill shows up later, wouldn’t it be difficult for him to beat them?”

Wanyan Ping was gentle by nature; she only smiled and ignored Guo Fu. Yelu Yan, on the other hand, was more straightforward. She was the sister of Yelu Qi, thus the sister-in-law of Guo Fu. Hearing Guo Fu’s remark –she understood very well what it meant- she could not hold her peace any longer. “This situation actually fits you very well,” she snickered. “Young Wu beats several people, and when somebody beats him, Dunru will go next and beat some more. And finally my brother will go and beat the rest of the competitors. Then Sister-in-law can be Mrs. Clan Chief with little effort.”

Guo Fu blushed. “There are so many valiant people here, and they all want to be Clan Chief,” she said with embarrassment in her voice, “how could you say ‘with little effort?”

“Actually, my brother does not even have to go on stage,” Yelu Yan continued. “Why so?” Guo Fu was curious.

“Didn’t you hear Elder Liang?” her sister-in-law asked. “When the Beggar Clan Mount Jun Summit was held, Mistress was only in her teens. Wielding only a bamboo stick she subdued everybody and became the Clan leader. They say ‘the apple fell not far from the tree’; Sister-in-law, I think you’d better go on stage. I believe you have a better chance than my brother to be the Beggar Clan Chief.”

“Such a sharp tongue! You dare to mock me! Good!” Guo Fu shouted, attacking her sister-in-law’s armpit. Yelu Yan leaped backward. “Clan Chief! Help!” she called out, laughing hard. “Mrs. Clan Chief wants to kill me!”

By this time Guo Fu, Xiuwen and Dunru were already over thirty years of age, and Yelu Yan and Wanyan Ping had children. But they still liked to fool around like kids.

In the meantime, Huang Rong – who sat next to Guo Jing, was always alert. She kept looking around the field, to see if  any  strangers  had  sneaked  in.  She  had  instructed  several  Beggar  Clan  members  to  guard the area and report to her immediately if they saw anything  out  of  ordinary.  She  was  still  worried  that Shenying Shitay,  Han  Wugou,  Zhang  Yimang  and  the  others  would  show  up  and  create  a  disruption.  But till the end of eighth hour entering the ninth hour [i.e. around 3-4 o’clock in the afternoon] everything was still under control.

“Why would those weirdoes gather in Xiangyang?” she asked herself. “Something should have been happening by now. It’s beyond me that they would come over just to wish Xiang’er a happy birthday.” She lowered her head and sighed. Her intelligence could not penetrate this mystery.

Another time she lifted her head and watched the match on the stage. Xiuwen had defeated two competitors, and looked like the third would not hold him much longer. “Today the valiant people of the world are competing for the Clan Chief position,” she thought, “I wonder who will hold this prestigious position?”

Of course the same question had been hovering in everybody’s mind.

o0o

Except … in the Chinese peony pavilion [shao yao ting] behind the Guo’s Family Mansion, there was somebody who did not show the slightest interest in what was happening on the field. She sat alone daydreaming, with many questions in her heart. “That day I gave him one golden needle and specifically asked him to see me today. Today is my sixteenth birthday. That day, he gave me his promise. Why doesn’t he show up?”

She was sitting on a porch, leaning against a doorpost. The sun slowly crept to the west. “It’s already afternoon. Even if he comes, we will meet for only half a day at most,” she said softly to herself.

She looked at the flowerbeds, while her little fingers held the last golden needle. She sighed and with an almost inaudible voice said again, “I can ask him one last favor … ah…! I think he has already forgotten me. He doesn’t even remember his promise for today. What other favor I could ask?” Another moment later she had another thought, “It’s impossible. He wouldn’t forget his promise. He is a chivalrous hero (Da Xia) of the world, and he must always keep his word. Just wait … he’ll be here.” With this thought, her face turned pink and the fingers that hold the golden needle were shaking a little bit.

She sighed again. One thought kept coming back. “Even though he is a chivalrous hero, and he always keeps his word, I am only a young girl,” she thought, heart beating faster. “If he made a promise to Father, he would not fail to keep his word. But to me, I am only the ‘Young Eastern Heretic’ (Xiao Dong Xia) Guo Xiang. What am I worth in his eyes? Only a young girl! It’s very possible that when he remembered his promise, he would only laugh and said: Ah! Don’t bother!”

o0o

While Guo Xiang was busy thinking in the Chinese peony pavilion, Huang Rong, on the field, could not keep her second daughter off her mind. “According to Brother Jing, there were only two persons in this whole wide world who had the internal energy high enough to help Fu’er and Xiang’er back at the Yang Tai Fu temple,” she thought. “If not the Benevolent Master Hong Qigong, then it must be Brother Jing himself. The fact is, the Benevolent Master had passed away, and Brother Jing didn’t do it. Who could it be that invited those strange characters to wish Xiang’er a happy birthday? Old Urchin Zhou Botong loves to fool around, but even he could not make this meticulous plan. Reverend Yideng? Not likely; he is a monk. Western Poison Ouyang Feng and Monk Ci’en Qiu Qianren both have passed away. Could it be … Father?”

Huang Rong had not seen her father for more than ten years. Huang Yaoshi was like a wandering cloud or a wild crane, roaming Jianghu; nobody knew his whereabouts. She thought the peculiarity of this mystery went well with her father’s character. For a long time the name, Huang Yaoshi, had been well known in the Jianghu world, and people called him the ‘Eastern Heretic’. His peculiar way of thinking went very well with those weird people. So if the ‘Old Heretic Huang’ asked, they would certainly oblige.

Having this thought, Huang Rong’s heart beat faster and her countenance brightened. True, it was not appropriate for a grandfather to make jokes with his granddaughter. But Huang Yaoshi did not follow ‘appropriateness’, the custom and regulations of the day. He was like a heavenly dragon that was out of this world. Huang Rong was his daughter, but even she could not predict what he would do. Could it be that this grandfather had invited guests to congratulate his granddaughter? She held this train of thought and asked Guo Fu. “When she returned from those two days of being missing at Fenglingdu, did she mention Grandfather’s name?”

“No. Sister has never even seen Grandfather.”

“Think hard,” urged her mother. “She left Fenglingdu and went with Xishan Ghosts, did your sister ever mention anybody else?”

“No,” she answered, shaking her head.

Of course Guo Fu knew that her sister went to see Yang Guo. It was all right with her mother, but if her father ever heard that name, he would turn sour and wouldn’t talk to her for two or three days. Therefore, while Guo Xiang herself didn’t mention Yang Guo, Guo Fu certainly was not willing to look for trouble.

Huang Rong saw her daughter’s countenance change and she knew Guo Fu was hiding something from her. “This is not a simple matter,” she said. “If you know anything, you’d better tell me.”

Guo Fu did not dare to hold back anymore. “That day we heard people were talking about the Eagle Hero, which is Yang … Yang … Yang Guo,” she said. “After listening to their stories, Sister insisted she wanted to see him.”

Huang Rong was startled. “Did Xiang’er meet him?” she asked.

“Of course not,” came the answer. “If she did, she wouldn’t stop bragging about it.”

“Guo’er … Guo’er …” mumbled Huang Rong softly. “Is it him?” She turned to her daughter and continued, “Fu’er, what do you think? Was it him who killed Nimoxing at the Yang Tai Fu Temple?”

“How could it be him?” Guo Fu answered, “How could Yang … Yang Da Ge [big brother Yang] have this kind of martial art?”

“What did you and your sister talk about in the Yang Tai Fu Temple? Tell me all, don’t skip anything,” Huang Rong said.

“It was nothing important,” Guo Fu said, “Mei zi [little sister] loves to bicker with me.” And then she narrated how her little sister didn’t want to attend the Heroes Summit, didn’t want to see the Beggar Clan Chief election, and how she told her that a very handsome hero would visit her on her birthday. Finally, she laughed and said, “Her friends did indeed come to visit. But they are monks, priestesses, grandpas and grandmas. Where is that handsome hero?”

Now Huang Rong was convinced that the handsome hero could not be anybody else but Yang Guo. She thought Guo Xiang and Yang Guo had made an appointment to meet at the Yang Tai Fu Temple, but that plan was foiled by Guo Fu. Then, to vent his anger Yang Guo had invited several Jianghu characters to wish Guo Xiang a happy birthday. “But … why would he spend so much time and energy just for a kid like Xiang’er?” she asked herself. Suddenly she remembered Guo Xiang’s extraordinary behavior. She remembered how Guo Xiang liked to daydream, talked to herself, and her countenance turned pink for no reason. Huang Rong shuddered involuntarily. Her heart pounding, she thought, “We are doomed! Yang Guo hates me because I caused his father’s death; he hates Fu’er who chopped off his arm, he hates Fu’er even more for striking Xiao Longnu with a poison needle. Xiao Longnu promised to meet him sixteen years later, and now it is sixteen years later. Aiyo! Yang Guo is coming to exact his revenge.”

Once the thought ‘Yang Guo is coming to exact his revenge’ came into her mind, cold sweat trickled down her spine. She knew Yang Guo’s behavior was completely unpredictable; his love for Xiao Longnu was very deep. If he had waited sorrowfully for sixteen years and Xiao Longnu did not show up, he might unleash his anger and frustrations at the Guo family. After sixteen years it would not be enough just to kill Guo Fu; he must have another evil scheme in his mind. “Could it be that Guo Xiang was his target? Making her fall in love with him, then crushing her heart so she would suffer for the rest of her life? Well, with Yang Guo’s personality, that was very possible.” Once she finished her train of thought, she came to a conclusion: Yang Guo killed Nimoxing to save Guo Xiang’s life, then he sent several strange characters to wish her a happy birthday; his intention was to win her heart.

“But … something is not right!” her brain clicked again. “Today is Xiang’er’s sixteenth birthday. It was several months after Xiang’er was born that he parted with Xiao Longnu in the Passionless Valley. If he wanted to exact revenge, he would’ve waited for a full sixteen years, just like his wife had promised him … Although this sixteen-year appointment is questionable, that message was obviously her own handwriting. Who can tell if the two of them, husband and wife, will or will not see each other again? But my father … and the ‘Divine Nun of the South Sea’ [Nan Hai Shen Ni] …” The longer she thought, the more muddled her mind became. “Ah! Whatever happens, Xiang’er should not be allowed to see him,” she thought. “Xiang’er is just a child, she is too naïve for man’s wickedness.”

Suddenly an “Aiyo!” was heard from the stage. Huang Rong turned her gaze there and she saw Xiuwen’s palm strength had sent a fat monk down from the stage. She approached her husband and whispered, “You wait here. I am going to see Xiang’er.” “Isn’t Xiang’er here?” asked her husband.

“I will bring her here,” she answered. “That child is a little weird.”

Guo Jing looked at his wife with smile on his face. Wasn’t his wife also a weird child? He remembered the very first time they met, when Huang Rong was dressed like a beggar boy.

Seeing his smile, Huang Rong also smiled, and briskly walked back to her mansion. As upset as she was, seeing her husband’s smile and his broad shoulders – like he was strong enough to carry the burden of the whole world, Huang Rong suddenly felt better.

Arriving at Guo Xiang’s room, she did not find her daughter there; and was told by a maid that the Second Miss went out to the flower garden and said that she was not to be disturbed.

Huang Rong was shocked. “Xiang’er did not want to see the election, I am sure she’s made another appointment with Yang Guo,” she thought. She then turned her steps toward her own room, to get her own steel needle projectiles, slipped a dagger on her waist, and fetched her short stick. Only then did she go to the flower garden. She understood very well that Yang Guo now wouldn’t be the same as the Yang Guo of the past. He was already a formidable opponent then and she would not dare to be careless. She did not take the brick-covered path, but  walked  stealthily  around  the  decorative  stones  and  rocks scattered throughout the garden. Nearing the pavilion she could hear her daughter’s sigh.

She went closer still and hid herself behind a big rock. A moment later she heard her daughter’s voice, “Why isn’t he here yet?”

Huang Rong was relieved. “Turns out he is not here yet. I can still prevent them from meeting,” she thought.

“Every birthday Mother always tell me to make three wishes,” she heard Guo Xiang was talking to herself. “Good thing there is nobody around; I can talk to Heaven.”

Huang Rong was about to step out, but hearing her last sentence she stayed in her hiding place. “Even though I’m her mother, I can’t predict what is in her heart,” she thought, “let me hear what she has to say.”

A moment later Guo Xiang said, “God of Heaven, my first wish is that Father and Mother will be successful in leading the army and the multitude of valiant people to defeat the Mongolian invaders, so that the people of Xiangyang will live in peace and prosperity.”

Huang Rong exhaled softly. “Even though I call her weird, this child has a benevolent heart,” she praised her in her heart.

“My second wish is that Father and Mother are granted good health and longevity, that they may live to a hundred years,” the young miss continued. “I wish that everything will happen just like they have wanted.”

Guo Xiang was born to her parents when they were facing a great danger. Huang Rong’s heart pounded every time she recalled that incident. Thus, without her realizing it, her love toward Guo Xiang was not as strong as toward Guo Fu. But now, hearing the little girl’s wish, she was very touched and tears welled up in her eyes.

The young miss paused a moment before she continued, “My third wish is for the Eagle Hero Yang Guo

…”

Huang Rong was startled. She had thought that the third wish must’ve had something to do with Yang Guo, but hearing his name, she was still startled. “… that he might meet his wife, Xiao Longnu, a lot sooner, and let them live happily forever,” finished Guo Xiang.

This third wish floored Huang Rong. She originally thought Yang Guo had deceived her daughter with all kind of lies. Who would have known that her daughter knew everything about his marriage to Xiao Longnu and what had happened to them afterward. But a moment later another thought entered her mind and she became worried again. “Damn it, Yang Guo is so shrewd!” she moaned. “By showing her that he had never forgotten his wife, he earned Xiang’er’s highest respect. Right! If after meeting me Brother Jing had ignored Princess Hua Zheng, I would’ve looked down on him.”

And so, because Huang Rong regarded this matter from all possible directions; she became fearful of Yang Guo molesting her daughter. She started to breathe heavily; her own mind had driven her to distraction.

Suddenly an unusual noise was heard above the wall, followed by someone jumping down to the ground. His body was short and small, but his head was big. His figure, as well as his face looked ridiculously strange.

But Guo Xiang leaped with joy upon seeing this dwarf. “Uncle Big Head Ghost!” she greeted him with delight, “Is … is he coming?”

That man indeed was the Big Head Ghost. He walked to the pavilion and made obeisance to Guo Xiang. “Aiyo!” cried the young Miss, “Uncle Big Head Ghost, don’t you honor me like that.”

“Miss, don’t call me ‘Uncle Big Head Ghost’,” he said, “just call me ‘Big Head Ghost’. The Eagle Hero has instructed me to let Miss know …”

“He isn’t able to come?” cut in Guo Xiang, desperation in her voice, while tears welled up in her eyes, “He gave me his promise …”

“No, not at all,” answered Big Head Ghost, repeatedly shaking his big head.

“Why not?” asked Guo Xiang. “Didn’t you know, he did give his promise to me?” Tears almost flowed down her cheeks.

“Miss, I did not say that the Eagle Hero did not give you his promise, or that he is not able to come,” explained the Ghost.

“Just look at you,” Guo Xiang sulked, “You are talking gibberish, not this, not that …”

The Big Head Ghost showed a faint smile, “The Eagle Hero said that since he had to prepare three gifts for your birthday, he will be a little bit late.”

Guo Xiang was pouting, “Too many people bringing me birthday gifts; I have everything already. Please tell Big Brother not to bother me with any other gifts.”

The Big Head Ghost shook his head. “Among those three gifts, the first one is ready; while the second one has to be prepared by him personally, with some of our friends. It is very possible that it is ready as we speak.”

Guo Xiang sighed. “Actually, I prefer not to receive any gifts, as long as he comes quickly,” she said softly.

“About the third gift, the Eagle Hero said that Miss needs to go to the field where the election is being held. You need to receive the gift straight from his hand,” the Big Head Ghost continued. “Now that it’s almost that time, I think you’d better go.”

Guo Xiang sighed again, and then laughing she said, “I have told Big Sister I don’t want to see the Chief’s Election. But since Big Brother says to go, I have no choice. Very well, let’s go together.”

The Big Head Ghost nodded his big head and then he whistled. Suddenly a  dark shadow jumped over  the wall from outside, it was none other than the Divine Eagle itself. As soon as Guo Xiang saw it,  she immediately went over and tried to hug its neck like they were a pair of long-lost friends. But the Eagle moved back two steps and stood straight arrogantly, turning its head and only looking at Guo Xiang with the corner of its eyes. The little Miss was amused, she laughed, “Brother  Eagle  is  so  proud.  You  are ignoring me, but I want to hug you.” She jumped forward and tried to hug it again. This time the Eagle did not avoid her and let its neck be hugged tightly; but its attitude was like a father’s resignation over a mischievous loveable daughter. “Brother Eagle,” Guo Xiang said, “Let us go together. I will give you some delicious food. Do you like to drink wine?”

The Big Head Ghost clapped his hands. “Good! The Divine Eagle loves to drink wine,” he said.

And so two people and one Eagle ran toward the field. Entering the area the gathered heroes expressed their admiration by clucking their tongues at seeing the eagle’s huge body and its strange appearance.

Guo Xiang invited the Big Head Ghost and the Eagle to sit on the ground not too far from the stage. The Beggar Clan disciples who acted as the hosts immediately came and asked the Big Head Ghost’s name.

“I don’t have a name and I know nothing! Miss Guo brought me here, I follow her!” he answered coldly.

Huang Rong followed not too far behind, she thought, “Yang Guo is going to appear on the field; that means he’s made a thorough plan; we might have a big fight later.”

At that time both Wu brothers, Dunru and Xiuwen, had been beaten. Zhu Ziliu’s martial nephew, as well as three of the Fisherman’s [Si Shui Yu Yin’s] disciples, four eighth grade and six seventh grade Beggar Clan’s disciples, had gone on stage, to defeat and be defeated by their opponents. Right now Yelu Qi was on the stage. He had defeated three opponents, using Zhou Botong’s 72-stance “Vacant Fist” technique, and now was fighting a forty something year old man. This man’s name was Lan Tianhe, a Miao [an ethnic group] from Guizhou. When he was young, Tianhe went gathering herbs in the mountainous area of Sichuan province. There he slipped and fell down a ravine, and was rescued by a skilled martial artist. He then learned from his rescuer the external type of martial arts [wai-gong, as opposed to nei-gong]; as a result, his fists created a loud noise. Yelu Qi’s kungfu on the other hand did not create any noise at all; his hands and feet floating silently with fierce attacks interspersed in between. Their match was very impressive.

The opponents had exchanged stances for quite some time. The several hundred spectators who wanted to go on the stage were ashamed by their own inferiority and thought, “Luckily I wasn’t rash enough to go on stage; otherwise I am just going to make a scene with my inadequacy. Even if I trained hard for ten more years I won’t necessarily be able to defeat either of these two combatants.”

Lan Tianhe’s strong and forceful attacks required a lot of energy; he felt he was getting tired. Yelu Qi, on the other hand, kept his attacks steady, not getting too fierce, but also not slacking off. He knew there were more tough contenders out there. He wanted to conserve his energy.

After fighting for quite some time Lan Tianhe became impatient; he had roamed the southwest area for over twenty years and nobody was able to withstand more than thirty stances of his attacks. Unexpectedly that day, in front of thousands of heroes, he met his match. Gradually he increased his strength and very soon the two had exchanged twenty more stances.

Lan Tianhe saw an opening in his opponent’s defense, “Got you!” he shouted. He used one of his trick stances, ‘Nine Demons Seize a Star’ [jiu gui zhai xing]. His fist went straight toward Yelu Qi’s chest.

Yelu Qi’s right palm made a sweeping motion, his hands intersecting, and parried the opponent’s fist. They stood motionless for a few seconds. The fight turned into an inner strength contest. Then Lan Tianhe’s expression changed; he staggered backward then cupped his fists to his opponent and said, “I concede!” He proceeded to the edge of the stage and loudly said, “Mr. Yelu has a benevolent heart; he didn’t want to take my life, for which I am very grateful!” He took a deep breath, shook his head and leaped down from the stage.

Yelu Qi also cupped his hands and said, “I have the same admiration for Lan Xiong [Brother Lan].”

When Lan Tianhe’s fist met with Yelu Qi’s palm, immediately he sent his inner strength out he felt like his force was hitting water; it felt empty yet not empty, it felt solid yet not solid; and he felt his energy being sucked in. Then he felt his opponent’s force entering his hand, flowing to his chest through his arm, and attacking his ‘dan tian’ like bowls of boiling water. Stunned and feeling like he was going to explode, he nervously tried to pull his fist back, but it was stuck as though glued to his opponent’s palm, even after he pulled it back about half a foot. He then remembered his master’s instructions that with his “Wind and Thunder” technique he could roam Jianghu, but he had to be very careful  fighting  against  a  nei-gong martial artist; as soon as the opponent’s energy entered his ‘dan tian’ he would die violently. As soon as this thought entered his mind he closed his eyes, ready to die. But suddenly his fist was free; the heat in his ‘dan tian’ was also slowly dispersed. He circulated his ‘qi’ and did not feel any injury within; then he knew his opponent had shown mercy and spared his life. He felt ashamed and willingly admitted defeat to the public.

When the two fought the long fight on stage everybody could see Lan Tianhe’s overwhelming palm strength; it was both swift and fierce. But Yelu Qi unexpectedly defeated him with an invisible force. Nobody knew what exactly happened, but after his victory nobody dared to challenge him on stage.

As Guo Jing and Huang Rong’s son-in-law, Yelu Qi had close ties with the Beggar Clan. The four elders and twelve eighth grade disciples all agreed to elect him as the Clan Chief. Yelu Qi was Zhou Botong’s disciple, hence all Quanzhen disciples present were his juniors. Because other people regarded Guo Jing, husband and wife, and the Quanzhen Sect with respect, nobody was really keen on challenging him. Several other people who did not realize their own lower skills had come onstage but he defeated them one by one.

Seeing her husband had gone this far, Guo Fu’s delight was unspeakable. But then she saw the Eagle and the dwarf with a big head she met at Fenglingdu were sitting next to Guo Xiang; she was startled. When Guo Xiang made her entrance to the field along with the Big Head Ghost and the eagle Yelu Qi’s fight with Lan Tianhe was very intense so that Guo Fu’s attention was focused on the stage. Although the eagle was impressive, she completely missed their entrance.

Now that a strong opponent had been defeated she wondered, when did her little sister tell her about coming to the field? She was secretly startled, “Not good! Yang Guo’s title is Divine Eagle Big Hero [shen diao da xia]; could it be that this big and ugly bird is his Divine Eagle [shen diao]? The bird is here, chances are that Yang Guo is close by. He is going to be the Clan Chief … He is going to be the Clan Chief

…!”

From a mood of delight, this young mistress became upset. She recalled the incident when Yang Guo bent her sword just using his empty sleeve. She thought, “Brother Qi is good, but he is no match for this one- armed freak. It looks like he is my Black Star (opposing opposite) always appearing at critical moments like this …!” She looked around in all directions, but not even his shadow could be seen.

The sky was getting darker; Yelu Qi had defeated seven opponents. After waiting for quite some time and since no one appeared to challenge, Elder Liang went up and announced loud and clear, “Master Yelu is intelligent and chivalrous. We all admire him; the whole Beggar Clan supports his election to the Clan Chief position …”

Immediately the beggars around the stage applauded and cheered.

“I wonder if there is another valiant hero to challenge him?” Elder Liang continued. Three times he repeated himself, but got no takers.

Guo Fu was elated. She thought, “Yang Guo is not coming, he’s lost his chance. If he shows up, even by a moment after Brother Qi is inaugurated as the Clan Chief, he would be too late to mess things up.”

The thought had not even left her mind when suddenly they heard two horses galloping fast approaching the field. It seemed like it was a very urgent matter.

“Ah! He is coming after all!” Guo Fu was shocked.

Two horses dashed onto the field and their riders were two gray-robed spies Guo Jing had sent to scout the enemy’s movements. Even though Guo Jing was watching the election contest, his heart was never far from thinking about military matters. As soon as he saw these riders he thought, “Ah! They are coming after all!”

Guo Jing and Guo Fu, father and daughter thought the same ‘coming after all’ but the daughter meant Yang Guo, while her father meant the Mongolian troops, their enemy.

The two riders stopped their horses several  ‘zhangs’  [several  meters]  from  the  stage,  and  immediately paid respects to Guo Jing.

Without waiting for them to open their mouths, Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at their faces, trying to guess what the news would be; but they did not see worried faces. They looked so calm, more on the happy side, like they were bearing unexpectedly good news.

“Please be informed Hero Guo,” said one of them, “the Mongolian troops’ left wing has arrived at Xinye. They are one thousand men strong.”

Guo Jing was shocked, secretly thought, “They are that quick!”

“Also the right wing has arrived at Dengzhou, another one thousand men strong,” the second spy reported.

Guo Jing uttered a ‘Hmm’ and silently thought, “The enemy from the north divided their troops into two flanks, and they moved very fast. Truly a sharp strategy.” Both Xinye and Dengzhou were only 100 li (50km / 31 miles) or so from Xiangyang. From those cities to Xiangyang, the terrain was flat, with no rivers or mountains on the way. They could reach Xiangyang in just one day.

“Something has happened there. Something strange but pleasant to us,” continued the second spy. “The troops at Dengzhou, all one thousand of them, have been killed, including all the officers …”

“Is that so?” Guo Jing was more amazed.

“That was what I witnessed,” the first spy confirmed. “The one thousand strong troops at Xinye have become ghosts, everybody died. The most peculiar thing was they all lost their left ears!”

“The same thing happened at Dengzhou,” added the second spy, “they also lost their left ears.”

Guo Jing exchanged a look with his wife. They were both surprised and pleased. The enemy was tens of thousands strong, two thousand dead would not make a dent. But the way they died could crush their spirit. Only which troops or who had destroyed the enemy’s two flanking troops?

“What about the defense troops at Xinye and Dengzhou?” Guo Jing asked.

“They were still inside their cities,” came the answer, “We don’t think they were even aware that the enemy’s troops were decimated outside their cities.”

“Now go and give the report to General Lu,” commanded Huang Rong, “I am sure he will be pleased and will give you some reward.” The two spies nodded and happily retreated.

Huang Rong immediately went on stage and made the announcement, which was received with loud cheering and applause by their entire army.

“The Beggar Clan has just elected a new chief, this is a very pleasing news,” said Huang Rong, “but this news is even more pleasing! Elder Liang, please prepare a feast, we will make a celebration!”

A feast had indeed been prepared; therefore, they were  able  to  move  swiftly.  Everybody  was  high  in spirits, even Dunru and the others who were defeated during their matches. The Beggar Clan party did not allow tables and chairs, so they just sat on bamboo mats laid out scattered across the field. Although humble, the food and wine were sumptuous.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were repeatedly congratulated. People thought it was their doing. No matter how they denied it, nobody believed them.

“Brother Jing, this is so strange,” said Huang Rong to her husband, “we’ll just ignore them and see what happens.”

Madam Guo then sent eight smart beggars to run to Xinye and Dengzhou to investigate further.

In the meantime, Guo Xiang was still sitting with the Big Head Ghost and the eagle. Nobody dared to come close to them.

“I wonder why Big Brother has not come yet?” Guo Xiang asked.

“He said he will come, he’ll come,” answered the Big Head Ghost. He was just finishing speaking when he suddenly said, “There! Did you hear that? What’s that noise?”

Guo Xiang strained her ears. From a distance she could hear animal noises, loud roars of lions and tigers, loud cries of big monkeys, and the heavy footsteps of elephants.

“The Shi Brothers are here!” Guo Xiang was delighted.

Not too long afterwards everybody could see the beasts. They were shocked and unsheathed their weapons. Panicked voices were heard everywhere, “Where did they come from? Ah! Lions! Tigers! Watch out! Wolfs! Leopards…!”

Guo Jing stayed calm. “Go to the city and summon two thousand archers!” he commanded Xiuwen.

”Yes,” Xiuwen complied and was just about to move when suddenly a loud voice was heard, “The Shi Brothers from the Beastly Mountain Village are here to carry out the Eagle Hero’s instructions to wish Miss Guo Xiang a very happy birthday!”

That voice did not come out of one, but from five mouths. The Shi brothers did not have a high level of internal energy, but by combining their voices, they could be heard from afar.

Even though he heard them; Huang Rong still thought that being prepared wouldn’t hurt anything. She signaled Xiuwen to proceed. The Shi Brothers’ intent was not yet clear.

Xiuwen worked fast. In no time he arranged the archers to defend the field in a horseshoe formation. These archers were under Guo Jing’s coaching. As we remember, Guo Jing himself was a Jebeh (master archer –  see LOCH). This was also one reason why Xiangyang could defend itself from the Mongolian troops for dozens of years. The archers were not inferior to the Mongolian archers who were well known throughout the world.

As soon as the archers were in formation, a big man appeared. He wore a tiger fur robe, and was accompanied by a hundred large tigers. It was the White Forehead Mountain Lord Shi Bowei. His tigers immediately sat around him in an orderly fashion.

Following him were Caring Eyesight Sage Shi Zhongmeng with his hundred leopards, Golden Claw Lion King Shi Shugang with his hundred male lions, Immortal of Giant Strength Shi Jiqiang with his hundred big elephants, and Eight Handed Monkey Immortal Shi Mengjie with his hundred big monkeys. These five groups of animals then sat around their masters in neat formations. As well-trained as they  were,  the animals could not be kept quiet. They kept making loud and frightening noises, which made the hearts of the people of Xiangyang tremble.

Each one of the Shi Brothers brought a leather pouch. They approached Guo Xiang and bowed, “We wish you a very happy birthday, good health and longevity!”

Guo Xiang stood up and reciprocated, “Thank you, Shi Uncles! Third Uncle Shi, is your injury healed? Fifth Uncle Shi, how about the sword wound on your chest?” Shi Shugang and Shi Mengjie were touched, “Many thanks Miss for showing your concern, we are healed.”

Shi Bowei pointed to the five pouches. “These are the first presents from the Eagle Hero to Miss Guo,” he said.

“I really cannot accept it!” said Guo Xiang, giggling. “What are those? Oh, I know! Yours must be a tiger cub, and his is a leopard cub! Am I right? That would be fun!”

“No!” Shi Bowei smiled, “These are the fruits of the great effort of seven hundred Jianghu friends under the leadership of the Eagle Hero!” Then he opened his pouch.

Guo Xiang stretched her neck to see the content, she was startled, “Ears! Human ears…!”

“That’s right!” answered Shi Bowei, “These five pouches contain a total of two thousand Mongolian soldiers’ ears!”

Guo Xiang was dumbfounded, “This many ears, I … What should I do with all these ears?” she asked.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong had heard everything; they stood up and came near Shi Bowei to see the ears. There in front of them was the proof of what their spies had told them. They were surprised and delighted at the same time.

“Brother Shi,” Huang Rong addressed Shi Bowei, “It turns out the Mongolian troops at Xinye and Dengzhou were destroyed by hero … Eagle Hero’s troop. Is that right?”

Before answering the Shi Brothers quickly kneeled down and paid their respects to Guo Jing and Huang Rong, which Guo Jing and Huang Rong quickly reciprocated. Shi Bowei explained, “The Eagle Hero said that Miss Guo Xiang is in Xiangyang, and today is her sixteenth birthday. The Mongolian barbarians are going to attack, endangering the Second Miss Guo; therefore, they have to be killed. He regrets the fact that the enemy numbers are so great that we cannot destroy them all. However, he has led a number of valiant people to destroy two thousand members of their front line companies.”

“Where is the Eagle Hero at this moment?” asked Guo Jing. “I want to see him and convey the gratitude of the entire Xiangyang population.”

Guo Jing had been so busy defending Xiangyang and training his troops for dozens of years that he had not roamed Jianghu. Therefore, he was not aware that the Eagle Hero was none other than his Yang Guo.

“We apologize on his behalf,” said Shi Bowei, “because the Eagle Hero has been busy preparing some presents for Miss Guo these past few days. He did not have a chance to pay a visit to Great Hero Guo and Madame.”

Shi Bowei had just finished when a whistle was heard from a distance; then a voice was heard, “The Xishan Ghosts have received the Eagle Hero’s instructions to wish Miss Guo a happy birthday, and to deliver this present …!”

That voice was not loud, but sharp. It sounded like the voice came and went, but every word was clear.

“Guo Jing waits.” Guo Jing quickly answered. He knew that since the first present was so valuable, he did not dare to be inattentive. He used his internal energy, so his voice traveled far. He stood erect alongside his wife and waited.

“Can you guess who this Eagle Hero is?” Huang Rong whispered. “I don’t know,” answered her husband.

“It’s Yang Guo!”

Guo Jing looked up in surprise; but in the end he was ecstatic. “Wonderful! Just wonderful!” he exclaimed. “He has rendered his country a great service; this is the merit of our great Song Dynasty.”

“Can you guess what this second present will be?” Huang Rong asked again.

Her husband only smiled. “Guo’er is so smart; you are the only one who is his match.” he answered, “Only you could guess.”

“But this time I really don’t have any idea,” said Huang Rong, shaking her head, but in her heart she said, “Yang Guo has done a great service to Xiangyang, but he keeps saying that all are for Xiang’er; his hatred toward us, husband and wife, and Fu’er, has not diminished.”

In a  moment  the  Long  Beard  Ghost  appeared  on  the  field,  leading  the  other  eight  ghosts.  They immediately paid their respect to Guo Jing and his wife. Only then did they approach Guo Xiang and said, “Wishing you health and unbounded happiness! The Eagle Hero instructed us to  deliver  the  second present!”

“Thank you, thank you!” said Guo Xiang. She saw the Xishan Ghosts all carried boxes, big boxes and small boxes.

Guo Jing was afraid the contents were some kind of ears or noses or other human parts, so quickly he said, “If the contents are not good to behold, I ask you not to open them.”

The Big Head Ghost laughed. “These are very good things to behold!” he said. Fan Yiweng then opened the lid and picked up what looked like a fireworks rocket. He lit that thing and it shot up, and exploded high in the air and amidst the colorful rain of light appeared a letter ‘Gong’ [respectful].

Guo Xiang was so happy that she jumped around and clapped her hands while saying: “Good…Very good!”

The Hangman Ghost [Diao Si Gui] also ignited a rocket and that made the letter ‘zhu’ [best wishes]. Then, one by one, the rest of the ghosts ignited their rockets, forming a string of characters which read, ‘gong zhu guo er gu niang duo fu duo shou’ [respectfully wishing the Second Miss Guo prosperity and longevity]; ten big characters. Each character had its own color and they stayed afloat for quite some time. The gathered heroes clapped and cheered. The fireworks were made by Hankou’s well known Huang Yipao, an unrivalled fireworks artist.

Guo Jing smiled, he was also very happy. He thought, “My daughter loves fireworks so much. Good thing Yang Guo could find a very skilled artist to make them.”

The fireworks were just about to disperse when a few li to the north another firework was shot, then another one much further to the north.

“These fireworks work like a beacon,” Huang Rong thought, “this way somebody could deliver a message a few hundred li in just a short moment. I wonder what Yang Guo prepared for the second present. I doubt it is just fireworks to make Xiang’er happy.”

Madam Guo immediately instructed the Beggar Clan to prepare some additional bamboo mats for the Shi Brothers and the Xishan Ghosts.

While the feast was still underway, thunderous noises came from way up north, one explosion after another. The noise was muffled because it was so far away.

Upon hearing that noise, the Shi Brothers and the Xishan Ghosts jumped up and down, ecstatically exclaimed, “Success…Success!” Nobody in Xiangyang knew what they were exclaiming about.

The Big Head Ghost pointed to the north and kept shouting, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” Because it was already dark, everybody could see the light of fires showing in the north.

“The city of Nanyang is on fire!” Huang Rong suddenly exclaimed. Guo Jing realized what had happened, he slapped his thigh, “That’s right! It is Nanyang!”

“I beg your explanation,” said Huang Rong to Fan Yiweng.

“That is the second present from the Eagle Hero to Miss Guo;” came the answer. “We set the two- hundred-thousand strong Mongolian army’s logistics on fire.”

Huang Rong had guessed correctly, but still they were surprised and ecstatic. In their effort to destroy Xiangyang, the Mongolians had built the city of Nanyang as its logistics center. They had built barns and grown fields of grass for several years. Tons of rice, wheat, water and hay were gathered from all over the Mongolian territories and sent to Nanyang. There was a saying, ‘A  great  troop  movement  is  always preceded by provisions and grass.’ Rice and wheat were the soldiers’ food while grass was for the horses. The Mongolians rely heavily on their cavalry; therefore, food and hay were indispensable to the army’s movements. Guo Jing had tried on several occasions to send specially trained teams to destroy it, but they never succeeded in doing so, since the city was heavily guarded. Unexpectedly Yang Guo had succeeded in putting that city to the flame!

Guo Jing gazed to the north looking at the fire, anxiety began creeping into his heart, “Will they be able to retreat without any harm? Shall we join them and render any help we can?” Guo Jing asked Fan Yiweng.

“Hero Guo did not ask about the results, but asked about the safety of the people, he has such a benevolent heart,” thought Yiweng. Then he explained, “Thank you for Hero’s concern. Everything was carefully planned by the Eagle Hero. The team consists of Shengyin Shitai, Ren Chuzi, Zhang Yimang, Bai Caoxian and the others; more than 300 people total. Even though the Mongolian troop is strong, there is no way they can harm us.”

Like he was just waking up from a deep sleep, Guo Jing said to Huang Rong, “You heard that? Guo’er has gathered so many valiant people to render this great service. If not for these highly skilled heroes, how could two thousand soldiers be decimated in such a short period of time?”

Fan Yiweng explained further, “Our spies reported that the Mongolians planned to attack Xiangyang with fire power; they have approximately ten thousand ‘jin’s [a ‘jin’ is approximately 0.5kg or 1lb] of gunpowder in store in Nanyang. We just followed their lead. We made thorough preparations. As soon as the team saw our fireworks signal, we moved together. According to our plan, first we destroy the explosives, and then set the supply of food and hay on fire. Let the Mongolian army and their horses die of hunger!”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other. They were very impressed and alarmed at the same time. They both had followed Genghis Khan’s invasion to the west [for those of you who have not read the novel, it happened toward the last chapters of LOCH See note 1], where the Mongolians destroyed city walls with cannon and explosives. It was like a volcano’s eruption. The reason the Mongolians had not used explosives at Xiangyang before was because of the scarcity of the explosives. But now that the Mongolian Khan, Mengke himself led the attack, they brought the cannons along. Good thing Yang Guo had made this pre-emptive attack; otherwise Xiangyang’s city walls would be destroyed very easily.

Both Guo Jing and Huang Rong were having the same thought, “The decimation of two thousand troops with their left ears missing could crush the enemy’s spirit, but the smashed Nanyang storage base could cause the enemy to retreat.” Therefore, the Guo couple heartily thanked the Shi Brothers and the Xishan Ghosts.

Shi Bowei and Fan Yiweng both said, “The Xiao ren [little/ lowly people] are only following the Eagle Hero’s instructions; our contribution is so minuscule, how can it be worth mentioning?”

During this time they could still hear the sporadic explosions from the north. But since Nanyang was quite a distance away, the noise was muffled. Then, a big and loud explosion was heard. The earth shook.

“There! That must be the main explosives warehouse!” said Fan Yiweng delightedly.

Guo Jing immediately summoned the two Wu Brothers. “Take two thousand men with you, and attack Nanyang,” he gave his command. “But don’t be reckless. If they are still intact, hold off, but if they are disorganized, attack with arrows!” The two brothers complied and immediately executed his command.

These two victories had followed one after another and the people on the field cheered and applauded, offering toasts to each other; everybody praised the Eagle Hero’s unmatched accomplishments. Everyone that is, except Guo Fu …

She thought her husband was  to  be  the  focus  of  the  festivities  since  he  had  defeated  countless  opponents and was elected Chief of the Beggar Clan. Who knew that Yang Guo – without even showing up, had stolen his and her thunder? Of course she was happy with the decimation of two thousand Mongolian front line companies and  the  annihilation  of  Nanyang’s  provision  and  explosive  storage  facilities,  but  she  didn’t  get to be the center of attention. Didn’t the Shi Brothers and Fan Yiweng say that  the  victories  were  birthday presents for her little sister, Guo Xiang?

“I understand now!” she was fuming, “I chopped off his arm so he bears a grudge against me. So he purposely made me lose face!” From feeling discontent, she became enraged.

Elder Liang shared the same bamboo mat with Yelu Qi and Guo Fu. He saw everybody’s countenance was bright, except Guo Fu’s. After pondering a while, he figured out the reason. Then he laughed and said, “Ah, this old man is so absent-minded. Because of these joyful victories I have neglected the important business right in front of my eyes!” He jumped on stage and said with a loud voice, “Valiant people! Twice tonight the Mongolian troops have been beaten. We are all very happy; but right here, right now, we have another thing that should double our happiness. Master Yelu had shown his exquisite skills and we all admire him. Master Yelu had been elected our Chief. Now I want to confirm this: is there any of you who still want to challenge our decision? Is there any Beggar Clan disciple who is having a second thought?”

His question was repeated three times. Nobody said anything. Therefore, he continued, “Master Yelu, please come on stage!”

Yelu Qi accepted his bidding. He clasped his hands together in respect, and bowed to everybody. He was just going to open his mouth to make a ‘lack of character, lack of ability’ modest acceptance speech when suddenly a voice was heard from underneath the stage, “Wait a moment! Xiao Ren [lowly people] wants to ask a thing or two of Master Yelu!”

Yelu Qi looked up in surprise. He heard the voice came from the Beggar group. He said, “I don’t dare, Please! Speak up!” That  man  stood  up,  and  with  a  loud  voice  said,  “Master  Yelu,  your  respected  father  was  the  Prime Minister of Mongolia, your own brother was a high official in the Mongolian administration. It is true that they both have passed  away,  but  we  –  the  Beggar  Clan,  have  always  had  enmities  with  the  Mongolians. With your obscure background, I wonder if it would be proper for you to be our Chief?”

Hearing this, Yelu Qi was irritated. He said, “My benevolent father, the late Yelu Chucai was poisoned by the Queen Mother of Mongolia. My brother, the late Yelu Qin, was executed by the Mongolian Khan! Wouldn’t that make me the sworn enemy of the Mongolians?”

“Even so,” said the Beggar Clan disciple, “Your father’s death is still a mystery. Nobody knows for sure whether he was poisoned. Your brother committed a crime against the monarch, he deserved the capital punishment. You can place your vengeance on hold, that’s fine with me; but how about our own resentment …?”

Listening to someone offending her husband, Guo Fu was enraged. “Who are you?” she asked harshly, “You dare to speak nonsense here! If you have any guts, come up here on stage!”

That beggar laughed mockingly. “Good! Good!” he repeatedly said, “The new Chief hasn’t been inaugurated yet, and the Mrs. Chief has shown her fearsomeness!”

As soon as he finished, he leaped to the stage. His movement was so swift that many missed seeing it. They were astonished and wondered in their hearts, “Who is this man? He is highly skilled.”

Several thousand pairs of eyes turned their gaze toward this beggar. He was wearing an oversized black raggedy robe. His right hand held an iron stick with a diameter as big as a wine cup. His hair was unkempt, his countenance yellow and dry. He had pockmarks all over his face. He bore five bags on his back; hence he was a fifth grade disciple of the Beggar Clan. There were not many good-looking men among the Beggar Clan disciples, but this man was very, very ugly. As soon as he appeared, people recognized him as He Shiwo. He was known as a quiet man, who did not like to socialize with his peers and used to follow the crowd without question. He had worked hard, was very loyal to the clan and in ten years he managed to attain the fifth grade. His martial skills were low and he did not demonstrate any other knowledge so that nobody had paid any special attention to him. Everybody thought that fifth grade was too good for him and he would not be able to advance any higher. Who would have thought this ordinary beggar would dare to open his mouth, or even jump on stage to challenge Yelu Qi. “Where did he steal his skill from?” some people thought.

He Shiwo was nobody special, but because of his ugliness, whoever saw him would have a hard  time forgetting that face. Thus Yelu Qi also recognized him. He bowed to the beggar and said, “I wonder what instruction Brother He would give to me?”

“Instruct you I do not dare,” answered He Shiwo coldly, “But there  are  two  things  that  I  do  not understand. Therefore, I came on stage to beg your explanation.”

“What are those two things?” asked Yelu Qi.

“First,” said He Shiwo, “it is our custom that every Chief of the Beggar Clan will have the ‘Dog Beating Stick’ as the symbol of his authority. Today Master Yelu has been elected Chief. I wonder where that ‘Dog Beating Stick’ is? This lowly beggar would like to see it.”

His question stirred the hearts of the Beggar Clan disciples, “That was a very good question,” they thought.

Yelu Qi answered, “Chief Lu met his death at a criminal’s hands; the ‘Dog Beating Stick’ was also snatched away at that time. This is a disgrace to our Clan. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to get the Stick back.”

“The second thing the Xiao Ren [little/ lowly people] do not understand,” continued He Shiwo, “is about Chief Lu’s death. Have we exacted our revenge yet?”

“Chief Lu was murdered by Hou Dou, everybody knows that,” answered Yelu Qi. “We are all enraged by his atrocity. Unfortunately, we have searched everywhere and so far have not found any trace of that scoundrel Hou Du. This is our collective task, we will keep looking for him, even to the ends of the earth, and exact our revenge on behalf of our beloved Chief Lu!”

He Shiwo coldly laughed and said, “First, the ‘Dog Beating Stick’ is still missing! Second, the assassin of the late Chief Lu has not been found! This business need to be taken care of. Yet someone is actually thinking of becoming the new Chief. Don’t you think that is a rash decision?”

Many people were shocked! Yelu Qi’s face was flushed with anger; he was at a loss for words.

“Brother He, you have spoken reasonably,” Elder Liang intervened. “However, our disciples are numerous and scattered across the country. They cannot be left leaderless. Besides, the task of finding the Stick and the criminal is easier said than done. There must be someone who would spearhead the project. That was the reason why we worked hard to elect the new Chief.”

He Shiwo shook his head. “Elder Liang, I strongly disagree!” he said, “What you said was wrong! You put the cart before the horses!”

Elder Liang was the leading Elder of the Beggar Clan. With the death of Chief Lu, he was the highest- ranking officer in the Clan. The fact that a fifth grade disciple dared to talk like that to him made him furious.

“What’s wrong with what I just said?” he asked.

“In this disciple’s opinion,” He Shiwo said, still very  bold,  “whoever  manages  to  take  the  Dog  Beating Stick back, and whoever can kill Hou Dou to avenge our Chief, he should be the new Chief! Right now we elected a new Chief only based on his martial arts skills; but what happens if Hou Dou comes here and defeats Yelu Qi; will we elect him our new Chief?”

His words were so reasonable that the beggars were exchanging looks with each other. But Guo Fu was upset and shouted from below the stage, “Rubbish! How could Hou Dou defeat him?”

He Shiwo snickered, he said, “Master Yelu is indeed highly skilled, but that does not mean that he is invincible! This lowly beggar only has five bags on my back, but I doubt if he can defeat me.”

Guo Fu was fuming mad hearing his blatant challenge, she shouted, “Brother Qi! You’d better give this rascal disciple a lesson!”

He Shiwo coldly said, “The internal affair of the Beggar Clan are always taken care of by the Clan Chief and four Elders; Madame Clan Chief has never had any role in the decision making process. Not to mention Master Yelu has not been inaugurated yet; but even if he had, Madame Yelu still has no right to denounce a disciple in public like that. Am I right?”

Guo Fu’s face was turning red. “You … you …” she stuttered.

He Shiwo ignored her; he looked at Elder Liang and asked, “Elder Liang, if this disciple can defeat Master Yelu, would I be the new Chief? Or do you think we should wait until after somebody gets the Stick back and kills the criminal?”

Elder Liang was getting angrier hearing him getting bolder than ever. “I don’t care who it is, if he cannot defeat all contenders, he cannot be the Chief. Later on, if he cannot get the Stick back and cannot kill the enemy, he would regret being the Chief! Master Yelu is no exception. After he is inaugurated as the new Chief, he cannot shirk from these two responsibilities. If he cannot defeat you, Brother He, how could he become the new Chief?”

Hearing this, He Shiwo immediately said, “Elder Liang has spoken reasonably. Now this lowly beggar wants to take a lesson or two from Master Yelu. Only then can we talk about getting the Stick back and killing the criminal!”

From the tone of his voice, sounded like He Shiwo was 90% confident he would win.

Yelu Qi was a patient man, but upon hearing He Shiwo, he couldn’t help but feel offended. But he still maintained his composure and said, “Younger Brother is indeed not worthy to accept this heavy responsibility. Therefore, if Older Brother He would like to teach me a thing or two, I will humbly accept.”

“Good! Good!” said He Shiwo coldly. He planted his own stick on the stage floor, and thrust his fist at Yelu Qi. His attack did not seem to carry a lot of strength, but his fist created a gust of wind that Elder Liang – who was standing about two meters away, felt his face suddenly hot and hurting. This made him leap to the edge of the stage.

Yelu Qi did not hesitate, his left hand made a turn and neutralized the attack, while his right hand counter attacked with the ‘Concealed Deep as if Empty’ move[shen cang ruo xu], a stance from his 72-stance “Vacant Fist Technique”. Two people moved their fists and feet, engaged in a fierce battle on the stage.

It was almost ‘xu shi’ [about 7-9pm]. It was a moonless and starless night. The audience could see everything clearly, because there were dozens of big torches lighting all sides of the stage.

Huang Rong kept her eyes open, but she was amazed that after more than ten stances Yelu Qi did not show any signs that he had gained the upper hand. Also, as hard as she tried, she could not recognize which school He Shiwo belonged to. She could tell though, that He Shiwo had trained for at least forty years. “For these last eleven or twelve years I have seen the list of the Beggar Clan disciples,” she thought, “and He Shiwo has steadily climbed up in rank. Funny thing is I’ve never heard anybody mentioning his martial arts. Who knew that in reality he possesses such high skills? I believe he did not accidentally learn this skill. Could it be that he has hidden his true skill just to wait for a time like this?”

The match was fierce. They had exchanged more than fifty stances, and Yelu Qi was starting to feel alarmed. No matter what stances he used against his opponent, He Shiwo could parry very well. It turned out this beggar is the toughest opponent he had fought so far. He Shiwo on the other hand, was not highly offensive, and seemed like he wanted to conserve his energy and waited for something to happen.

Yelu Qi had fought several opponents today, but with the exception of Lan Tianhe, the rest were ordinary martial artists. He did not have to use too much effort to defeat them. Thus he was very surprised to see He Shiwo’s agility. Seemed like He Shiwo was floating around indefinitely,  and  launching  his  sudden attacks that carried a strong gust of wind.

Yelu Qi was Zhou Botong’s head disciple. True, he had not mastered his Master’s “Dividing the Mind” skill, but he had mastered about 80 to 90% of the Quanzhen Sect’s martial arts. It could be said that he could be regarded as one of the top level martial artists. Under the bright fire light around the stage, both he and his opponent moved very fast and their match was rather enjoyable to watch.

“Brother Jing, can you guess He Shiwo’s school of martial arts?” Huang Rong finally asked her husband.

“Up to this very second he has not shown his true skill,” answered Guo Jing. “I think he is trying to hide his origin. Just wait another seventy or eighty stances. By then Qi’er will gain the upper hand. If he does not give up, he will be forced to show his true skill.”

The match was picking up speed. Both opponents attacked and counterattacked, both still showed their agility. In a short time they have exchanged forty or fifty stances. Very soon they would reach the seventieth stance, then the eightieth. Guo Jing’s prediction was accurate; Yelu Qi was beginning to control his opponent’s moves.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong kept their eyes open. If He Shiwo kept hiding his true skill and fighting with mixed-up techniques, he would certainly suffer a loss.

Yelu Qi could also see his opponent’s predicament. Gradually but carefully he increased his strength. He stayed calm and did not want to make any reckless moves.

Suddenly He Shiwo changed his tactics; he swung his long sleeve out then immediately pulled it back. As a result, the dozens of torches around the stage were extinguished. The stage became pitch dark. While nobody could see anything, they heard both Yelu Qi and He Shiwo’s surprised shouts, and then they heard somebody thrown down from the stage. All the while He Shiwo was heard laughing maniacally.

Nothing else was heard except He Shiwo’s laugh. Everyone  was  shocked.  A  moment  later  Elder  Liang came to his senses and barked a  command,  “Light  up  the  torches!”  Immediately  several  beggars complied.

When the light was back, it was seen that it was Yelu Qi who stood on the ground. He had a bleeding wound on his left cheek, the size of a wine cup; while He Shiwo stretched out his left arm and coldly said, “Good protective vest! Good protective vest!” His palm was bleeding.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong exchanged another glance. They realized that because Guo Fu loved her husband, she had loaned him her soft hedgehog armor [ruan wei jia]. Therefore, when He Shiwo hit Yelu Qi, he hit the vest instead and his palm was injured by the thorns. Still, nobody knew how Yelu Qi got injured and fell off the stage.

What had happened was, at a critical time, He Shiwo had used his ‘big wind sleeve’ [da feng xiu] technique to extinguish the torches. Yelu Qi was startled when the stage suddenly darkened, but he still remembered to protect himself by striking first. But again he was surprised because his hand touched something cold, a metal weapon. He realized now that He Shiwo had planned to use a dirty trick in the darkness. Yelu Qi knew he was in danger, but he was not afraid. He kept going with his ‘Great Capturing’ [da qin na shou] technique, trying to snatch his opponent’s weapon with the intention of showing it off to the audience. With the ‘Skilled Hand in all Directions’ [qiao shou ba da] he managed to get within two feet of He Shiwo. His right hand grabbed the weapon while his left hand hit his opponent’s face, forcing He Shiwo to let go of his weapon.

In the dark He Shiwo eluded the attack to his face by turning his head and had no choice but to let go of his weapon. While Yelu Qi was pulling the weapon, he felt a sting on his cheek and at the same time his chest was hit hard, which made him stagger and fall from the stage. The weapon had a secret equipment inside. As soon as it was grabbed, it was separated into two parts. The first part stayed in Yelu Qi’s hand, while the second part flew back and hit Yelu Qi on the cheek, making a half-inch deep wound so that his cheekbone was visible. Fortunately it did not hit any vital organs, and fortunately he was wearing the protective vest so that his opponent was also injured.

Guo Fu was shocked and enraged; she leaped to her husband, trying to protect him.

Elder Liang was facing a dilemma. On one hand he knew He Shiwo had used a dirty trick, on the other hand, nobody knew what exactly happened, hence nobody could prove it. Both parties were injured, but Yelu Qi was thrown from the stage, so he could be considered the loser.

Guo Fu could not accept it. “He used a dirty trick!” she angrily shouted, “Brother Qi, go up there and fight him!”

Yelu Qi shook his head. “Even so, he still won,” he said. “Even if we used honest techniques, I am not confident enough of victory against him.”

Huang Rong signaled her son-in-law to come close so she could see what was inside Yelu Qi’s hand. It was a piece of steel, about five-inches long and looked like a fan’s spine. She could not remember who in the Jianghu world used that kind of weapon.

While everybody was still quiet from shock, He Shiwo raised his yellow and swollen ugly face, and was heard saying, “Even though this lowly beggar has defeated Master Yelu, I still do not dare to accept the Chief’s position. I want to wait until the stick is back and the enemy Hou Dou has been killed.”

His speech was received with loud cheers by the Beggar Clan’s disciples. Although his victory was questionable, he had demonstrated his high martial arts. After listening to his speech a lot of beggars lifted up their cups to toast him.

He Shiwo then stood on the edge of the stage and cupped his fists to the audience. “Is there any hero out there who would like to teach me a lesson or two?” he challenged.

He was just saying the word ‘stage’ when Shi Bowei loudly shouted, “Ah!” followed by his army of animals. Suddenly the beasts – which were sitting neatly in formation, leaped up and loudly roared. A single lion or tiger’s roar is loud; imagine all five hundreds animals roaring  at the  same  time.  The  earth  shook,  wine cups and rice bowl turned upside down, everybody was aghast.

Amidst the loud noise, the Xishan Ghosts and Shi Brothers, fifteen people, leaped toward the stage, unsheathed their weapons and surrounded the stage. Suddenly eight people, each holding high a torch, were seen entering the field and coming straight toward the stage. Somebody said loud and clear, “The Eagle Hero wishes the Second Miss Guo a happy birthday! We deliver the third present.”

They moved fast, like they were flying above the ground; a demonstration of a very high lightness kung fu. In no time they had come close to Guo Xiang. Four of them then stretched out their arms, presenting Guo Xiang with a big sack. It seemed the present was inside the sack.

Then these eight people cupped their fists to her and introduced themselves. Everybody who heard their names was surprised. They were not ordinary people. The first was an old Buddhist monk, none other than the Abbot of Mount Wutai's Foguang Monastery, Reverend Tanhua. He was the peer of the Shaolin's Abbot, Zen Master Tianming. The others were old Marquis Zhao and the Deaf and Mute Dhuta, Qingling Zi, the leader of the Kunlun School, etc. All of them were seniors of the martial arts realm.

Guo Xiang did not seem to care about the background of all these people. She returned their greeting and laughing sweetly she asked, “I have bothered you all, Uncles! Thank you! What kind of toy is that?”

The four people holding the sack gave a strong tug and the sack was ripped into four pieces. A bald headed monk rolled out of the sack.

End of Chapter 36. 
@Chapter 37 – Gratitudes and Grudges Over Three Generations
The monk’s shoulder hit the ground then he stood up, appearing to be very agile. His face was red with fury and he shouted some words that seemed unintelligible. Guo Jing and Huang Rong knew he was the Golden Wheel Monk’s (Jinlun Fawang) second disciple Da’erba and did not know how Master Tan Hua and Old Master Zhao captured him.

Guo Xiang thought there would be some amusing toy in the sack but saw a rough-looking monk instead, so she was somewhat disappointed and said, “I don’t like this monk that Big Brother has given me. Where is he? Why is he still not here?”

One of those who came to deliver the third present had spent some time in Tibet and understood Tibetan, so he whispered a few words to Da’erba. His face changed and he stared at He Shiwo. The man, Qingling Zi (Green Spirit Sage), said a few more words in Tibetan to him, then handed Da’erba his golden rod which had been taken away when he was captured by the eight experts.

Da’erba raised his rod with a shout and jumped onto the stage.

The man laughed and told Guo Xiang, “Miss Guo, this monk can do magic tricks, the Eagle Hero told me to conjure a few tricks for you.” Guo Xiang was happy and clapped her hands, saying, “Oh OK, I was starting to wonder why Big Brother spent such a great effort to bring the monk here.”

Da’erba shouted a few grunts at He Shiwo. He Shiwo said, “What the hell are you yelling about? I don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth!” Da’erba stepped forward fiercely and smashed the rod towards his head. He Shiwo quickly avoided the blow. Da’erba spun his rod and attacked swiftly. He Shiwo was fighting single-handedly and was pushed back by Da’erba’s heavy assault.

The Beggar Clan members saw this monk was so fierce and his face full of hatred so they quickly rushed forward. Elder Liang said, “Big Monk, don’t cause any trouble here. He’s the future Beggar Clan leader.” But Da’erba ignored him and kept on spinning his rod, causing golden flashes and gusts of wind together with heavy crashing sounds.

Several Beggar Clan members could not control themselves and jumped towards the stage, attempting to stop the fight. However the eight experts, Shi brothers and Xishan Ghosts surrounded the stage and prevented anyone from accessing the stage. Although the Beggar Clan had many people, they were held back and could not get onto the stage. Amidst the confusion Qingling Zi turned around, went up on the stage and took away He Shiwo’s metal staff. He Shiwo was shocked and tried to snatch it back but was blocked by Da’erba’s rod and could not advance a single step.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong could not guess why Yang Guo sent these people here to create trouble, but since the first two presents he gave Guo Xiang were beneficial to Xiangyang, they guessed this third present would not mean any harm. The Guo couple stood aside and watched silently.

Although Yelu Qi  was  beaten  by  He  Shiwo,  he  was  eager  to  continue  his  mother-in-law’s  great  service  to the Beggar Clan, so when  he  saw  He  Shiwo  panicking  under  Da’erba’s  attacks,  he  shouted,  “Brother  He, don’t panic, I’m going to help you!” He jumped  towards  the  stage.  A  person  shouted  fiercely,  “Nobody’s allowed on the stage!” Then  the  person  blocked  his  way.  Yelu  Qi  stretched  his  hand  out  to  grab  him  but that person  caught  his  hand  instead  with  a  strange  move  and  such  great  internal  strength  that  he  could not move. Yelu Qi was shocked and saw that it was the third of  the  Shi  brothers  Shi  Shugang.  Yelu  Qi exchanged a few moves but still could  not  force  him  to  retreat,  so  he  thought,  “This  person  is  a  small  fry and under  the  Eagle  Hero’s  command,  yet  he  is  so  remarkable.  Because  the  Eagle  Hero  is  able  to command all these experts, he must be a really great man.” Qingling Zi  raised  the  iron  staff  and  shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, please  take  a  look  at  this.”  He  chopped  down  on  the  rod’s  middle  with  his  hand and the rod broke – it was actually hollow. He pulled one end off and took out a bright green bamboo rod.

The Beggar Clan members were momentarily stunned and speechless, then all cried out together, “The leader’s “Dog Beating Stick”!” The Shi Brothers and other experts stepped aside. Everyone was wondering, “Why was the “Dog Beating Stick” concealed in the  iron  staff?  How  did  He  Shiwo  get  his hands on it? Why did he not reveal it?”

The people were all waiting for Qingling Zi to explain everything but he wordlessly stepped down from the stage and handed the “Dog Beating Stick” respectfully with both hands to Guo Xiang. Guo Xiang saw the rod and thought about Lu Youjiao and became sad; she received the rod then handed it to Huang Rong. Da’erba’s rod moves became more intense and He Shiwo had to evade the dangerous stances with his agility. When the Beggar Clan members saw the “Dog Beating Stick”, they knew the experts must have a good reason for bringing Da’erba here to deal with He Shiwo, so none of them pushed their way up on stage. In less than ten moves, He Shiwo looked like he would die under the golden rod, then Huang Rong suddenly thought, “He Shiwo used a weapon to hurt Qi’er, so the weapon must be concealed in his sleeve. Yet at this critical juncture, why doesn’t he use his weapon?” Da’erba swept his rod on the stage and He Shiwo leapt up and evaded it. Da’erba flipped his rod and brought it upwards. He Shiwo was in midair and could not evade this attack. Suddenly a clash of weapons was heard and He Shiwo leaped aside with a short weapon in his hand. Da’erba was seething with anger and cursed him and increased the intensity of his rod attacks. However, with a weapon in He Shiwo’s hand, his martial skills increased and his strokes became masterful. Although his weapon was short, he was able to fend off Da’erba. Zhu Ziliu saw this and suddenly remembered something, saying, “Madam Guo, I know who he is. But I still don’t understand something.”

Huang Rong laughed, “That it was pasted on with glue, honey and flour.” Yelu Qi, Guo Fu and Guo Xiang were standing next to Huang Rong and heard their conversation but did not understand what on Earth they were talking about.

Guo Fu asked, “Uncle Zhu, who did you say was who?”

Zhu Ziliu said, “I’m talking about the He Shiwo who injured your husband.” Guo Fu said, “What? He’s not He Shiwo? Then who is he?”

Zhu Ziliu said, “Look carefully, what weapon is he using?”

Guo Fu stared for a while then said, “This short weapon is less than a foot, and it’s not sharp like those pens used to seal accupoints.”

Huang Rong said, “Think carefully. He’d rather not use his weapon and risk discovery, thus putting his life on the line fighting the monk. Why doesn’t he use his weapon? Why did he extinguish the torches before using his weapon?”

Guo Fu said, “This person is sly and crafty, what’s wrong with that?”

Guo Xiang said, “He knows someone in the crowd will recognize his weapon techniques, so he doesn’t want to reveal it.”

Zhu Ziliu praised, “Ah ha, Miss Guo is indeed clever.”

Guo Fu heard him praise her sister and was not happy so she said, “What about not revealing the truth? Isn’t he standing on the stage? Everyone can see that.”

Guo Xiang thought about what her mother just said and replied, “Ah, his ugly face is actually a disguise made of flour. This face is really repulsive, after glancing once I don’t want to see it anymore.”

Huang Rong said, “The more repulsive he disguises himself, the more he can conceal his identity because no one wants to stare at an ugly face for long. If there are any changes to his disguise no one would notice them. Ah, it’s really not easy keeping up such a disguise for so many years.”

Zhu Ziliu said, “His face may be false, but his decades worth of martial arts can’t be faked.”

Guo Fu said, “If this He Shiwo is fake, then who’s he? Sister, since you’re so clever, tell us who he is.” Guo Xiang said, “I’m not that clever, so I don’t know.”

Zhu Ziliu smiled, “Elder Miss Guo has seen him before, and at that time the younger Miss Guo wasn’t even born yet. Seventeen years ago, at the Da Sheng ‘Heroes’ Meet, someone exchanged a few hundred moves with me, who was that?”

Guo Fu said, “Hou Du? No, it can’t be him. He uses a fan. Although this weapon looks like it, this weapon only has the skeleton but not the surface.”

Zhu Ziliu said, “I fought such an intense battle with him before, it was the only time in my life I experienced such great danger, how could I possibly forget his stances? If he isn’t Hou Du then I must be blind.”

Guo Fu looked at He Shiwo again and saw that he was agile and his strokes lethal. It really appeared to be like the Hou Du at the ‘Heroes’ Meet years ago, but she still had many doubts. She asked, “If he’s really Hou Du, then this monk is his martial brother, can it be he doesn’t recognize him so that’s why they’re fighting?”

Huang Rong said, “It’s precisely because he recognizes him that they’re fighting. That year at Chongyang Palace, Yang Guo used his sword to pin down Da’erba and Hou Du. Hou Du didn’t want to risk his life so he deserted Da’erba and his master. He ran away. This incident was witnessed by the whole the Quanzhen Sect, you must have heard of that too.”

Guo Fu said, “Hmmm, no wonder Da’erba hates him so much.”

When Guo Xiang heard “Yang Guo used his sword to pin down Da’erba and Hou Du” she thought of how great he was and was awe-struck.

Guo Fu asked, “Why did he become a beggar? How did the “Dog Beating Stick” end up with him?”

Huang Rong said, “Isn’t that easy? Hou Du betrayed his master, so he’s afraid his master and martial brother will find him, hence he disguised his face and joined the Beggar Clan. Without revealing who he is, he slowly rose to be a 5th grade member over the past 10-over years. Since no one in the Beggar Clan was suspicious of him, Fawang wasn’t able to find him. But this scoundrel wouldn’t be content with hiding here all his life so he was waiting for an opportunity to do something big. When Leader Lu was patrolling outside the city, he waited there and ambushed him, revealing his identity and a message for the beggars to bring back, which was to tell everyone Leader Lu was killed by Hou Du. After he snatched the “Dog Beating Stick”, he hid it inside his hollow metal staff. When the Beggar Clan elected a leader, he could raise the matter of finding the “Dog Beating Stick”. Since the Stick is a very significant icon of the Beggar Clan, who can oppose him? Ah, this scoundrel Hou Du is a really brilliant schemer to think of this plan.”

Zhu Ziliu laughed, “But with you around Madam Guo, he can’t hide anything from us.”

Huang Rong didn’t laugh and said, “Hou Du hid himself in the Beggar Clan without revealing his identity and was able to fool me. But by trying to vie for the Beggar Clan Leader’s position, he’s really looking down on me.”

Zhu Ziliu said, “Yang Guo is really wonderful; he actually was able to discover Hou Du’s scheme, recover the “Dog Beating Stick”, reveal his identity and give the  younger  Miss  Guo  this  present.  He’s  very capable.”

Guo Fu said, “Humph, he happened to find out, there’s nothing great about that.”

Guo Xiang thought, “That day Big Brother was outside the Yang Tai Fu Temple and saw me mourning Uncle Lu. He knew I was great pals with Uncle Lu so he put in a lot of effort to help me avenge him; this present is no small thing, his efforts…” Then she suddenly thought of something and said, “Although Hou Du became an ugly beggar in the Beggar Clan, he  still  uses  his  true  identity  to  cause  trouble  outside. Third Uncle Shi of the Shi brothers was injured by him before and must have wanted to settle this matter with him and so tracked him down.”

Huang Rong said, “Correct. Hou Du leaves a trail behind in Jianghu time and again, but no one would expect the Beggar Clan’s He Shiwo and Hou Du to be the same person. ‘He Shiwo’, look at his fake name

– he regards himself as his own master. When someone thinks too highly of himself, he will inevitably fail one day.”

Guo Fu said, “Mother, then why does this He Shiwo say he wants to kill Hou Du? Isn’t that silly?” Huang Rong said, “This is just a sham to remove any doubts.”

Guo Fu said, “Since Yang… Brother Yang already knew He Shiwo is Hou Du, he should have said it long ago and not allowed him to injure Brother Qi.”

Huang Rong laughed, “Yang Guo is not God; how would he know that Qi’er would get injured?”

Guo Xiang said, “But Sister is a Goddess, so she let Brother-in-law don the Soft Armour.” Guo Fu glared at her, but she felt kind of proud inside.

As they were talking, the fight between Da’erba and Hou Du got even fiercer. The two had the same master so they were familiar with each other’s martial arts – Da’erba was superior in strength but Hou Du was superior in agility. After another hundred moves, there was still no clear victor. Suddenly Da’erba shouted and threw his 50-jin rod towards Hou Du and it flew swiftly and fiercely. Hou Du was shocked as he has never seen Da’erba use such a move before. He thought, “He has not won after so long, has he gone crazy?” and quickly jumped aside. Da’erba rushed up and hit the rod with his palms and it changed directions, following closely behind Hou Du. Hou Du was greatly surprised, then he realized that Da’erba had followed their master for over 10years and must have learned some advanced martial arts. This rod move was derived from Fawang’s Five-Wheel techniques and when Hou Du saw the ferocity of the rod coming towards him and knew he could not take the blow. He slid away, causing the rod to miss his head by two inches.

Da’erba was spinning the rod even more rapidly, causing the torches to flicker under the great gusts of wind. Hou Du was jumping around on the darkly-lit stage and was in danger many times. The spectators all stared at this violent battle and could not take their eyes off it. Da’erba threw the rod eighteen times then he shouted, using both hands to shoot his rod like an arrow. Hou Du could not evade this and the rod hit him squarely in the chest with a bang. He slowly collapsed onto the stage and remained motionless.

Da’erba took his rod and called out thrice, and then he sat down in front of Hou Du and mumbled the “Reincarnation Chant”. Then he jumped off the stage and presented his weapon to Qingling Zi. Qingling Zi did not accept the weapon but said, “Congratulations. You have rid your sect of a scum. The Eagle Hero will spare you and wants you to return to Tibet, and never set foot in the Central Plains again.” Da’erba said, “Thanks to the Eagle Hero. I shall follow his instructions.” He bowed and went off.

Guo Fu saw Hou Du lying motionlessly on the stage with his hideous face and could not believe it was fake, so she drew her sword and jumped onto the stage, saying, “Let’s see what this traitor really looks like.” She then used her sword’s tip to poke his nose.

Suddenly Hou Du shouted and leapt up, forcefully striking his palms downwards. Actually after being hit by the golden rod, he was fatally injured but he did not die  immediately.  He  purposely  remained motionless, waiting for Da’erba to come forward and examine him so that he could execute a fatal move and cause Da’erba to die with him. However Da’erba  just  chanted  some  prayers  and  left  immediately. Then Guo Fu came forward instead. Hou Du pretended to come back to life and stunned her to reduce her resistance. Her Soft Armour was with Yelu Qi so it seemed death was imminent. Guo Jing, Huang Rong and Yelu Qi jumped onto the stage but it seemed too late…

Then two ‘peng’ sounds were heard and two projectiles flew through the air side by side and pierced Hou Du’s chest. The projectiles were small and seemed like pebbles but the force behind them was mighty. Hou Du leaned back and collapsed backwards, throwing up a pool of blood. He was dead. The people were shocked and looked in the direction where the projectiles had come from but only saw the pale moon and the starry night. The night was still and the projectiles seemed to have been launched from on top one of the two flag poles erected in front of the stage.

When Huang Rong heard the projectiles hurtling through the air, she knew that apart from her father’s ‘Divine Flicking Finger’ [Dan Zi Shen Tong], no one else had this skill. The two flag poles were more than ten yards apart, how could the projectiles come from the two flag poles at the same time? Surprised, she did not think clearly, so she said, “Father, is that you?”

An old voice from atop one of the flag poles laughed, “My friend Yang Guo, let’s go down!” The voice atop the other flag pole replied, “Yes!” and the two people jumped down together.

Huang Yaoshi taught Yang Guo the Divine Flicking Finger to counter Li Mochou years ago. Under the moonlight, the two people descended gracefully, with their clothes floating in the wind. One was wearing a refined green robe while the other was a one-armed man wearing a blue shirt. It was indeed Yang Guo and Huang Yaoshi. Huang Yaoshi took Yang Guo’s hand and the two people landed on the stage. The people thought they were witnessing the Celestial Generals descending from the heavens.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong quickly jumped up on the stage and bowed to Huang Yaoshi. Then Yang Guo bowed to Guo Jing and Huang Rong, saying, “Nephew Yang Guo kowtows to Uncle and Aunt Guo.”

Guo Jing quickly raised him and laughed, “Guo’er, your three presents, ah, are really… really…” He was very grateful and could not find any words to express his gratitude.

Guo Fu was afraid her father wanted her to thank Yang Guo for saving her life so she quickly said to Huang Yaoshi, “Grandfather, fortunately you used your “Divine Flicking Finger” and saved me from that scoundrel’s palms.”

Yang Guo jumped off the stage and walked over to Guo Xiang, laughing, “Sister, I’m late.”

Guo Xiang felt her heart beating rapidly and her face turned red so she softly said, “You spent so much effort to get me the three presents, it was really… really a lot of trouble.”

Yang Guo smiled, “It was nothing. Since it’s your birthday we merely added to the fun.” He then waved his hand.

The Big Head Ghost said, “Bring everything up.” Then several people also repeated, “Bring everything up.” The message was then relayed outside.

After a while a group of people came in with lanterns, baskets and planks. They then put the planks together and started nailing, forming a wooden stage. More and more people came in but they moved in an orderly way and worked silently.

When the people saw Yang Guo’s presents they all respected and admired him deeply. They also thought he brought those people here for some major purpose. However, before long the stage was completed and some people started drumming and donning opera costumes and performing “The Eight Immortals Celebrate a Birthday”. Following that several people entered from the west and started singing “Man Chuang Hu”, a song from the story of Guo Ziyi celebrating his birthday with his seven sons and eight sons- in-law. At the same time some people lit firecrackers and some did conjuring tricks, turning the whole event into a grand celebration. The performers were famous troupes from Henan and Huguang. Everyone was in a festive mood and were dancing and cheering all over the field. By this time the Shi brothers had quietly left with their animals and the Xishan Ghosts, Qingling Zi and the group of experts followed suit.

Guo Xiang saw that Yang Guo had arranged the matter down to the last detail and she was moved to tears, remaining speechless for a while.

Guo Fu remembered their conversation at the Yang Tai Fu Temple, and now a young hero actually came to celebrate her birthday; she was secretly seething with anger. She just took Huang Yaoshi’s arm and bombarded him with questions, pretending she did not see anything.

Guo Jing felt the way Yang Guo celebrated his daughter’s birthday was making a mountain out of a mole- hill but he was broadminded. Moreover, Yang Guo helped  Xiangyang  and  the  Beggar  Clan  accomplish three great feats in one day so Guo Jing just let him do whatever he wanted, only shaking his head with a smile.

Huang Rong asked her father, “Father, did you arrange with Guo’er to hide on top of the flag poles?”

Huang Yaoshi laughed, “No, no! One day I was at a lake admiring the moon when I heard some people whispering that some “Eagle Hero” would be visiting Xiangyang and that his martial arts were excellent and his character strange. I was worried he wanted to harm my good daughter and son-in-law so I came here secretly. So this Eagle Hero is Yang Guo. If I’d known earlier I needn’t have worried so much.”

Huang Rong knew her father liked to roam Jianghu but was always thinking of her, so she laughed, “Father, don’t go away again, let us be reunited.”

Huang Yaoshi did not answer and waved to Guo Xiang, laughing, “Little girl, come over here and let Grandfather take a look at you.” Guo Xiang had never met him before so she quickly stepped forward to bow to him. Huang Yaoshi took her hand and closely examined her face, saying sadly, “What a great resemblance.” Huang Rong knew he was thinking of his late wife, so he was saying that Guo Xiang looked like her grandmother. She was afraid to stir his emotions so she did not say anything.

Guo Fu laughed, “Of course! You’re the Old Eastern Heretic and she’s the Little Eastern Heretic…”

Guo Jing scolded, “Fu’er, you have no respect for your grandfather!” Huang Yaoshi was however delighted and said, “Xiang’er, are you the ‘Little Eastern Heretic’?” Guo Xiang blushed and said, “At first it was only Sister who called me that, later on everyone called me that.”

At this time the four Elders of the Beggar Clan crowded around Yang Guo and thanked him profusely, thinking, “He’s rendered such a great service to Xiangyang, recovered the “Dog Beating Stick”, exposed Hou Du’s devious plan, avenged Leader Lu. If he’s willing to be the next Leader that would be splendid.” Elder Liang said, “Hero Yang, our late leader passed away tragically…”

Yang Guo had already guessed what they were up to and quickly interrupted, “Master Yelu is proficient in both martial arts and literature, he’s heroic and compassionate and he is a great friend of mine. If he becomes the new Leader, he will be able to continue the great legacy of Leaders Hong, Huang and Lu.”

Huang Yaoshi briefly asked about Guo Xiang’s martial arts and turned his head to get Yang Guo over to talk to him. When he turned around, he saw Yang Guo already walking out of the place so he said, “My friend Yang Guo, I’m off too!” He waved his sleeves and in the blink of an eye he had caught up with Yang Guo. The two of them swiftly disappeared into the darkness.

Huang Rong had something urgent to tell her Father but because there were too many people around it was not convenient to speak. Who would have thought he would suddenly leave, she was shocked and quickly gave chase.

However Huang Yaoshi and Yang Guo moved extremely fast and Huang Rong could not catch up. Huang Rong said, “Father, Guo’er, how about leaving after a few days?” Huang Yaoshi’s distant voice said, “We both have wild characters and are uncomfortable with restrictions, just let us be.” The last few words seemed to be almost a hundred meters away. Huang Rong, secretly groaning since she could not catch up, had to go back. Back at the field, drumming noises filled the night.

The four Elders of the Beggar Clan held a discussion. Firstly, before Hou Du came and messed things up, Yelu Qi had already been elected the Leader. Secondly, the Beggar Clan owed great debt of gratitude to Yang Guo, so since even he nominated Yelu Qi, then the affair was settled. The four Elders informed Huang Rong and ascended the stage and proclaimed Yelu Qi the new Beggar Clan Leader.

The Beggar Clan members all carried out their tradition and spat on Yelu Qi. They  then  clapped  and cheered. Guo Xiang noticed that this time Yang Guo only said a few words to her and left shortly after meeting her. She felt rather disappointed inside, and then she saw her sister standing next to Yelu Qi and receiving congratulations from the Beggar Clan members. She felt even worse so she turned around and headed home. She had not gone a few steps when Huang Rong caught up with her and held her hand, gently saying, “Xiang’er, what is it? Are you unhappy?” Guo Xiang said, “No, I’m extremely delighted.” After saying this she lowered her head and tears welled up in her eyes, and then fell to the ground. Huang Rong could not understand her daughter’s heart so she mentioned some interesting stories to make her happy.

The two people slowly went home. Huang Rong accompanied her back to her room and asked, “Xiang’er, are you tired?”

Guo Xiang said, “I’m alright. Mother, you’ve been up all night, you should rest.”

Huang Rong pulled her close and sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the bed and fondled her  hair,  saying, “Xiang’er, I’ve never mentioned the matter of your brother Yang Guo to you before. This is a long story, so if you’re not tired, I’ll tell it to you.” That caught Guo Xiang’s attention and she said, “Mother, tell me.”

Huang Rong said, “I should start from his grandfather.” Then she told her how Guo Xiaotian and Yang Tiexin became sworn brothers, how they swore their children even before birth, how Yang Kang acknowledged the enemy as his father and lost his life, why Yang Guo lived on Peach Blossom Island when young, why Guo Fu chopped off his arm and how he and Xiao Longnu separated at the Passionless Valley. She told the entire story to her.

Huang Rong then sighed and said, “At first I was suspicious of him and was afraid nothing good would come out of you knowing him. Ah, in terms of trusting people I’m way behind your father. Your brother Yang Guo did three great things tonight so instead of being evil, he’s far from it. We really owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Guo Xiang curiously asked, “Mother, why would he be evil?”

Huang Rong said, “At first I thought wrongly, I thought he bore a deep hatred for our Guo family and wanted to take revenge on you.”

Guo Xiang shook her head, “How could that be? If he wanted to kill me it would be all too easy. At Feng Lingdu, all he needed was his little finger to kill me.”

Huang Rong said, “You’re still young. You don’t know about all these things yet. If he wanted you to suffer and make us worried and depressed, it would be ten times more terrible than killing a person. Ah, there’s no need to say more, now I know he won’t. But I’m still worried over something.”

Guo Xiang said, “Mother, what’s there to worry about? I think brother Yang won’t take past matters to heart. He will be reunited with Sister-in-law soon and he’d be so happy he’d forget everything.”

Huang Rong said, “That’s exactly what I’m worried about; he may not get to see Xiao Longnu.”

Guo Xiang was shocked and said, “What? How could that be? Brother Yang personally told me Sister-in- law was badly injured and was taken away by the Divine Nun of the South Sea [Nan Hai Shen Ni] for treatment and arranged to meet again 16 years later. The couple has deep feelings for each other, why wouldn’t they meet after waiting for so long?”

Huang Rong frowned and only said, “Hmmmmm.” Guo Xiang said, “Brother Yang told  me  she  carved several words on the ‘ Broken Heart Cliff’ which said, ‘sixteen years later, meet at this  place,  the  love between (us) husband and wife is profoundly deep, never fail this promise’ Could the words be false?”

Huang Rong said, “The words are genuine, but I’m afraid Xiao Longnu loved Yang Guo too much so he won’t be able to see her again.”

Guo Xiang did not know what in Heaven’s name Huang Rong was talking about and stared at her expectantly. Huang Rong said, “sixteen years ago, your Brother Yang and his wife were seriously injured; Brother Yang’s injuries could be treated while Xiao Longnu’s poison attacked her major accupoints. He saw that she wouldn’t likely survive and didn’t want to accept treatment.” When she said this, her voice became soft and gentle and continued, “Ah, you’re still young, you won’t understand.”

Guo Xiang was lost in thought for a while then said, “Mother, if I were Sister-in-law, I’d pretend I’m alright and let him take the medicine to recover.”

Huang Rong was surprised; she had never expected her daughter to be so thoughtful of others at such a young age, so she said, “Correct, I’m afraid Xiao Longnu did just that and left Yang Guo. She earnestly said ‘the love between (us) husband and wife is profoundly deep, never fail this promise’ and said ‘please treasure this, beg that you fulfill this reunion’. When I saw ‘please treasure this’, I guessed Xiao Longnu disappeared suddenly to make your Brother Yang patiently and quietly wait for her for sixteen years. Ah, she thought after sixteen years, your Brother Yang would slowly forget her. Although he’d be disappointed, he wouldn’t want to commit suicide.”

Guo Xiang said, “Then what about the Divine Nun of the South Sea?” Huang Rong said, “I made that up. There’s really no such person.” Guo Xiang was shocked and stammered, “No… no such person?”

Huang Rong said, “That day at the Passionless Valley, I saw Yang Guo was so miserable that I could not help but make something up to console him and make him wait for the past sixteen years. I said the Divine Nun of the South Sea lived on Wisdom Island, but actually there’s no such island. I also said she taught your grandfather some palm strokes to reduce his suspicions. This Yang Guo is so intelligent, if I didn’t make it sound realistic, how would he believe me? If he didn’t, then Xiao Longnu’s efforts would be wasted.”

Guo Xiang said, “So you’re saying Sister-in-law is already dead? This whole thing was just to fool him?”

Huang Rong quickly said, “No, no! Maybe Xiao Longnu is still alive and will meet him when the time comes; if so that’d be wonderful. She’s the only disciple of the Ancient Tomb Sect, the founder Lin Chaoying was extremely knowledgeable and had profound martial arts and internal energy, so she might have left some incredible skill for Xiao Longnu to use to save her life.”

Guo Xiang thought for a while then said, “Yeah, I think so too, Sister-in-law is such a kind person and Brother Yang loves her so much, she wouldn’t die so easily. But if he doesn’t get to meet her, won’t he go crazy?”

Huang Rong said, “Today, when your grandfather came, I was thinking of asking him to cover up for us, but I was unable to do so.”

Guo Xiang became worried and said, “Now Brother Yang and Grandfather are together, he’d surely ask about the Divine Nun of the South Sea. Grandfather doesn’t know what’s going on and he’d surely let the cat out of the bag. That’ll be terrible.”

Huang Rong said, “If Xiao Longnu could be reunited with him, which would require a lot of luck, then everything would be fine. But if he doesn’t get to see Xiao Longnu, then I really don’t know what he’d do. He’d hate me deeply for lying to him and making him wait in loneliness for sixteen years.”

Guo Xiang said, “Mother, don’t worry, it was for his own good. You saved his life.”

Huang Rong said, “Besides the deep friendship of the Guo and Yang families for the past three generations, Guo’er himself has saved your father, mother and sister numerous times. Today he did so much for Xiangyang, we are truly grateful and we can never repay him. Ah, Guo’er has been lonely almost all his life. He’s already past thirty but the only happy moments he had only made up a few days.”

Guo Xiang thought, “If Brother really can’t meet Sister-in-law, he might really go crazy.”

Huang Rong said, “Your Brother Yang is of good character, but he has gone through much hardship when young so he’s rather eccentric, but his conduct is extraordinary.”

Guo Xiang tried to smile and said, “He, Grandfather and I are all heretic people.”

Huang Rong said, “Correct, he’s a good man but he has a heretic aura. If Xiao Longnu has unfortunately passed away, you must never ever meet him again.”

Guo Xiang never expected Huang Rong to say that so she quickly asked, “Why…Why not?”

Huang Rong held her hand and said, “If they get to meet, of course you can roam around with them or visit their home. Even if you follow them to the edge of the world I wouldn’t be worried. But if he doesn’t get to meet her; Xiang’er, you don’t know him well enough, if he goes crazy he’s capable of anything.”

Guo Xiang said, “Mother, if he doesn’t see her, he’d be sad and depressed, so we should console him.” Huang Rong shook her head, saying, “He doesn’t listen to others.”

Guo Xiang thought for a while then said, “Mother, after sixteen years, do you think he would commit suicide in his sorrow?”

Huang Rong was quiet for a long while then replied, “I can guess what most people are thinking but I couldn’t read your Brother Yang’s thoughts since he was young. It’s precisely because I can’t guess what he’d do that I won’t allow you to meet again; unless of course he’s reunited with Xiao Longnu. Then that’s a different story.” Guo Xiang was lost in thought and did not respond.

Huang Rong said, “Xiang’er, Mother is doing this for your own good. If you don’t listen to me, it might be too late when you regret it.” She saw her daughter frowning and her eyes turn red, so she said gently, “Xiang’er, let me tell you something else. It’s about your Brother Yang’s father Yang Kang.” So she then talked about how Yang Tiexin took Mu Nianci as his god daughter and how she sparred to find a husband, how she gave birth to Yang Guo and finally how she died of depression. Then she said, “Sister Mu Nianci’s character and beauty were flawless, such a good girl is hard to come by, but she was tormented by her affairs of the heart and suffered such a sad fate.”

Guo Xiang said, “Mother, she didn’t have any choice. She loved Uncle Yang, so no matter what he did she still loved him.”

Huang Rong stared at her and thought, “She’s so young, how does she know so much?” She saw that she was exhausted and her eyes could hardly stay open so she helped her get out of her clothes and tucked her into bed, saying, “Quickly close your eyes! I’ll watch you sleep then leave.” Guo Xiang closed her eyes and since she had not slept for the whole night she was really tired so she sank into a deep sleep soon after.

Huang Rong looked at her sweet and refined face she thought, “Among my three children, I worry about you the most. But among the three of you, I really can’t say who I pity the most.” She then returned to her room and slept.

The next evening, the Wu brothers sent back fast horses with the report that all the supplies at Nanyang had been destroyed; the gun powder had exploded and killed many Mongolian soldiers. After the loss, the Mongolians had withdrawn 100 li (50 km) and did not stir from their camp. When Xiangyang heard this message, everyone cheered with joy and kept talking about the Eagle Hero. Some exaggerated the story and made Yang Guo seem like a deity and excitedly talked about how he exterminated the vanguard forces and burned Nanyang. All of them talked as if they saw everything with their own eyes.

That night the Guo couple was invited by Lu Wenhuan to discuss the military situation so they reached home very late. The next morning Yelu Qi, Guo Fu and Guo Polu went to pay their respects but after a long while, Guo Xiang still had not turned up. Huang Rong got worried and instructed a maid to check her room to see if she’s ill. After a while, the maid came back with Guo Xiang’s maid saying, “The lady did not go to bed last night.”

Huang Rong was shocked and asked, “Then why didn’t you say so last night?” Guo Xiang’s maid Xiao Bangtou said, “Madam returned very late last night, so I didn’t dare disturb you; I thought the lady would return after a while, I didn’t know she’d still be missing until now.”

Huang Rong quickly went to Guo Xiang’s room and saw that she had not taken any spare clothes, weapons or money and was very curious. Then she saw a white slip of paper half-concealed under her pillow. Huang Rong knew something was wrong and she groaned inwardly then she picked up the slip of paper which said:

“Dear Father and Mother,

I’m going to convince Brother Yang not to commit suicide. When I’ve done that, I’ll return immediately. Signed,

Xiang.”

Huang Rong stood there motionless and thought, “This kid is really naïve. Given Yang Guo’s character, apart from Xiao Longnu, he listens to no one. If he did, he wouldn’t be Yang Guo.” She wanted to quickly find her daughter but the Mongolians were slowly closing in on Xiangyang on two fronts and they could attack any time, so she could not attend to her daughter’s private affairs. After discussing it with Guo Jing, she wrote several letters to some capable Beggar Clan members who would split up to look for Guo Xiang and bring her back.

That day after Guo Xiang heard her mother’s stories, she had  several  nightmares  shortly  after  falling asleep, dreaming that Yang Guo slit his throat with a sword, then dreaming that Yang Guo jumped off a high cliff and ended up in a bloody mess. After that she awoke in cold sweat so she sat up and thought carefully, “Brother gave me three golden needles and promised to do three things for me. I have one left, so I’ll use it to get him not to commit suicide. He’s a hero and won’t go back on his words, so I must find him.” So she left a short note and set off immediately.

However she hadn’t the slightest idea where Yang Guo and Huang Yaoshi could have gone so she walked rather aimlessly for around 30 li (15km) and became famished, so she tried to look for a food stall. But all the people around the city had fled even before the Mongolians had arrived so the whole place was lifeless like a ghost town. Guo Xiang had never gone out alone before, so she never expected to get into this mess. She sat down on a stone and folded her arms, becoming frustrated.

After sitting down for a while, she thought, “Since there’s no food stalls, I’ll pick some wild fruits.” She walked around but there was not even a single fruit tree for a few li. Just as she felt helpless, she suddenly heard a horse galloping. When the horse past her, she saw a tall and skinny yellow-robed monk mounted on the horse. The horse was very swift and was gone in the blink of an eye. But after going a few dozen meters, the horse turned around and returned. The horse stopped in front of Guo Xiang and the monk asked, “Lady, who’re you? Why are you here alone?”

Guo Xiang saw his piercing eyes and she shuddered. At the Black Dragon Marsh she met Reverend Yideng, so she thought, “Reverend Yideng is kind and benevolent; this monk should also be a good person.” She answered, “I’m named Guo, and I’m looking for someone.”

The monk asked, “Who?”

Guo Xiang shook her head and smiled, “You’re such a busybody, and I’m not talking to you.”

The monk said, “What does that person look like, maybe I’ve met him before and can tell you where he is.”

Guo Xiang thought this was not a bad idea and said, “You might not know him. He’s a one-armed young man. He might be with a large eagle or he might be  alone.”  That  monk  was  actually  Jinlun  Fawang (Golden Wheel Monk) and he realized she was talking about Yang Guo. His heart missed a beat but he appeared normal, saying, “Ah, you’re looking for someone named Yang Guo, right?”

Guo Xiang was delighted and said, “Yeah, you know him?”

Fawang laughed, “How would I not know him? He’s my friend. We knew each other even before you were born.”

Guo Xiang blushed slightly, then asked: “Big monk, what is your religious name?”

Fawang said, “I’m Zhu Mu Lang Ma.” Zhu Mu Lang Ma (Chomolungma/Mount Everest) is the tallest mountain in Tibet and it’s peak reached the clouds, so Fawang was trying to say his martial arts were unmatched in the world.

Guo Xiang said, “What a long and messy name.” Fawang said, “It’s Zhu Mu Lang Ma.”

Guo Xiang said, “OK, Reverend Zhu Mu Lang Ma, where is my brother?” Fawang said, “Your brother?”

Guo Xiang said, “Yeah, Yang Guo.”

Fawang said, “You call Yang Guo your brother? But you’re Guo, right?”

Guo Xiang said, “We’re sworn siblings, he lived in my home when he was young.”

Fawang said, “I also have a sworn brother, we’ve known each other for many years, his martial arts are excellent and he is very well-known, his name is Guo Jing, do you know him?”

Guo Xiang thought, “I sneaked out, if he’s one of Father’s friends he might want to take me home, so I’d better not tell him.” So she said, “You’re talking about Hero Guo? He’s an elder in my family. You want to meet him?”

Fawang was clever and alert, how could he miss Guo Xiang’s change in expression? He sighed, “He’s my savior, we’ve not met for more than twenty years, and then I heard a rumour that he had passed away. I’m very sad, so I came here to pay my respects. Ah, heaven must be blind to make a hero’s life so short.” When he said this, tears started to fall. His internal strength is very strong and he can control his entire body’s functions, so he could cry at will.

Guo Xiang saw him crying tragically, although she knew her father was not dead, she was still concerned about her father and her feelings were affected by him, so she said, “Big monk, don’t worry, Hero Guo isn’t dead.”

Fawang said, “You’re talking nonsense. He’s really dead. What does a girl like you know?”

Guo Xiang said, “I just came out from Xiangyang, of course I’d know. I just saw Hero Guo yesterday.”

Fawang faced the sky, laughing, “Ah, you’re Hero Guo’s daughter.” Then he shook his head and said, “No, no, his daughter is Guo Fu, I know her too, she’s around thirty-five this year, she’s not as young as you.”

Guo Xiang couldn’t resist and said, “She’s my elder sister. I’m Guo Xiang.”

Fawang was delighted and thought, “I’m really in luck today. Such an opportunity is hard to come by.” Then he said, “Oh OK, so Hero Guo’s not dead.”

Guo Xiang saw his happy expression and thought he was happy about her father, so she thought he was a nice person and said, “Of course he’s not dead. If my father died, I’d die crying over him.” Fawang said, “OK, OK, I believe you. I’m not going to Xiangyang just yet. Please help me tell Hero Guo and Chief Huang that I send my regards to them.”

However Guo Xiang was persistent in asking about Yang Guo, so as he was leaving she stopped him as he mounted the horse.

Guo Xiang said, “Hey big monk, why are you so unreasonable?” Fawang said, “How so?”

Guo Xiang said, “I told you about my father yet you did not tell me anything about Yang Guo. So where is he?”

Fawang said, “Ah, yesterday at the valley north of Nanyang he was training his sword strokes. He might not have left yet, you can go find him.”

Guo Xiang frowned, saying, “There’re many valleys. Which is it? Please tell me clearly.” Fawang thought for a while then said, “OK! I’m going north anyway, so I’ll take you there.” Guo Xiang said, “Thanks a lot.”

Fawang took his horse over and said, “Miss, please ride the horse, I’ll walk.” Guo Xiang said, “That’s not such a good idea.”

Fawang laughed, “This horse has four legs but it might not run faster than my two legs.”

Guo Xiang was about to mount the horse then she said, “Oh yes, I’m very hungry, do you have anything to eat?” Fawang took a bag from his back and Guo Xiang ate two biscuits from it, then she rode the horse.

Fawang flipped his sleeves and followed behind. Guo Xiang thought about what he said so she took the reins and said, “Big monk, I’ll be waiting for you out front.” Before she finished speaking, the horse started galloping and charged forward.

This horse was very swift and Guo Xiang felt the wind in her face and saw the trees flash past her. She turned her head around and laughed, “Big monk, can you catch up?” Then she was slightly surprised as there was no trace of him behind. Then suddenly his voice came from the forest in front, saying, “Miss Guo, my horse is not very fast, you must whip it harder.”

Guo Xiang was extremely curious, wondering how he had gotten in front. When the horse caught up, she saw the monk taking huge strides forward. Guo Xiang whipped the horse and it moved faster, but it always remained several meters behind, not able to catch up. By this time they had already reached the main road north of Xiangyang. The horse was kicking up a lot of dust while Fawang did not stir any sand or dirt and moved like the wind.

Guo Xiang was in awe of him and thought, “If he didn’t have this level of martial arts he wouldn’t be worthy of Father’s sworn brotherhood.” She respectfully said, “Big Monk, you’re an elder, you should ride the horse, I’ll follow slowly behind.” Fawang laughed, “Why should we waste time? Don’t you want to find your brother sooner?” By this time the horse was losing its speed and was lagging further behind Fawang.

Now two horses appeared up in front in the distance. Fawang said, “Let’s capture those two horses and ride them alternately so that we can move faster.” After a while the horses came closer and Fawang stretched out his hands, saying, “Get down and walk!”

The horses were shocked and neighed, stopping immediately. The riders however had good riding skills and did not fall from the horses. One of them angrily said, “Who’re you? Do you want to die?” He lashed out with his whip.

Guo Xiang happily said, “Big Head Ghost, Long Beard Ghost, don’t fight, we’re all friends!” The two riders were the Big Head Ghost and Long Beard Ghost of the Xishan Ghosts.

Then Fawang grabbed the whip and tried to seize it. However although the Big Head Ghost was small- sized, he had great strength and the whip was made of tough leather, so it did not snap even under Fawang’s force of a few hundred jin. Fawang said, “Not bad!” and increased his strength, pulling the Big Head Ghost off his horse.

The Big Head Ghost got angry and threw down his whip and charged forward, wanting to fight with Fawang. The Long Beard Ghost said, “Brother, wait!” Then he said, “Miss Guo, why are you together with the Golden Wheel Monk?” Many years ago Yang Guo had gone to the Passionless Valley with Fawang, so the Long Beard Ghost (Fan Yiweng) recognized him. Guo Xiang laughed, “You’re mistaken, he’s Reverend Zhu Mu Lang Ma, a good friend of my father. The Golden Wheel Monk is my father’s enemy, so how could this be?”

Fan Yiweng asked, “Where did you meet him?”

Guo Xiang said, “I bumped into him not long ago. He said my father is dead, isn’t that silly? He wants to bring me to see Big Brother now.”

The Big Head Ghost said, “Quickly get over here. This monk is a bad person.” Guo Xiang became doubtful and asked, “Is he fooling me?”

The Big Head Ghost said, “The Eagle Hero is in the south, why is he taking you north?”

Fawang smiled and said, “These two midgets are talking garbage.” He suddenly brought up his palms and struck them on the head.

For the past decade, Fawang had been training his “Dragon/Elephant Moving Skill” (Long Xiang Ban Lao Gong) and he had reached an unprecedented level in this fearsome skill. The “Dragon/Elephant Moving Skill” has thirteen levels; the first being very easy and even an idiot could master it within two years with some guidance. The second is more difficult than the first and requires about three to four years. The third level is even more difficult than the second and needs seven to eight years. So the difficulty level increases exponentially for each new level. For the fifth level alone, it usually requires more than thirty years to master. This profound skill was created by some obscure monk but no one has actually passed the tenth level. This skill is so profound that it is nearly impossible to complete all thirteen levels unless one could live to a thousand years old. The creator himself only mastered it to the eighth level and could make no more progress as he had reached a dangerous obstacle which he could not  overcome.  During  the Northern Song Dynasty, a monk who mastered the ninth level trained without rest and managed to reach the tenth level, but in his excitement he lost control (what some might call a ‘fire deviation’) and became insane, dancing crazily for seven days and nights before severing his arteries and dying.

This Golden Wheel Monk, however, is a prodigy and through his hard work and intelligence, he managed to break through the obstacle at the ninth level and reached the tenth level. This is an unprecedented achievement and no one will likely reach this level again. According to the description of the “Dragon/Elephant Moving Skill”, each palm thrust out is equivalent to the force generated by ten dragons and ten elephants. He knew he might not be able to reach the next level but he felt he did not have any opponents under the sky so he thought it was unnecessary to master the eleventh level. That year when he was defeated by Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu’s swords, it was the biggest defeat  and insult  in his  whole life, so he trained relentlessly and now when the Khan is preparing to invade the south, he took this opportunity to come south and seek the Yang-Long couple for a re-match, hoping  to  avenge  his  bitter defeat.

Now when he struck out with his palms, the Big Head Ghost was struck on his  arm  and  it  broke immediately with a snap. Following that he was struck on his forehead and his brain  was  smashed  in without even a sound and he died instantly. Fan Yiweng’s skills were high and when he saw that the palm attacking him was lethal, he used the “Tuo Tian Stance” to block this palm, however it was too strong for him and he felt as though a thousand-jin force had smashed his back, so he saw everything turn black and he collapsed.

Guo Xiang was extremely taken aback and shouted, “They’re my friends! Why did you hit them?”

Fan Yiweng spat out a pool of blood and used his last ounce of strength to get up and pounce on Fawang’s leg, yelling, “Miss, get the hell out of here!” Fawang grabbed his back, wanting to lift him up and smash him down but Fan Yiweng risked his life to protect Guo Xiang, so he grabbed onto Fawang’s leg for all he was worth. Although Fawang was incredibly strong, he could not get rid of him.

Guo Xiang was stunned and furious and immediately knew this monk was a evil man but she did not want to desert Fan Yiweng and escape alone. She placed her hands on her waist and coldly said, “Devil monk, how dare you commit this evil? Let him go, I’ll follow you.” Fan  Yiweng  yelled,  “Just  go!  Don’t  care about…” Before he could say “me” he was dead.

Fawang lifted his body and cast it aside, laughing; “If you want to escape why not use the horse?” Guo Xiang had never hated anyone her whole life, even when Hou Du ambushed and killed Lu Youjiao she just grieved for him but did not hate Hou Du. But now when she saw Fawang being so cruel and brutal she could not help it but hate him and with hatred in her eyes she stared at him. Fawang said, “Miss, aren’t you afraid of me?”

Guo Xiang said, “Scared…Of what? If you want to kill me just do it now!”

Fawang stuck out his thumb and said, “Good. A very brave girl, just like her father.” Guo Xiang gazed at him with rage in her eyes and wanted to burry her friends but she did not have any tools so she just carried the bodies and placed them on Fan Yiweng’s horse and kicked the horse, saying, “Horse, please take them home.” The horse galloped away.

o0o

That night when Yang Guo and Huang Yaoshi left Xiangyang, they used their Qing gong and ran ten li south; before morning they were near Yicheng. They came  to  a  tea  house,  ordered  some  dishes  and started eating. Huang Yaoshi told him that Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang had  been  living  in  their hometown Jiaxing in seclusion with Sha Gu for company. He wanted to take them and roam Jianghu to ease their worries but they did not want to. Yang Guo sadly gave a sigh and reproached himself inwardly.

They drank two cups of wine. Yang Guo said, “Island Master Huang, for these past ten years, I’ve been looking for you to consult you over a matter.”

Huang Yaoshi laughed, “I’m always on the move without a fixed destination, so it was hard for you to find me. But what would you like to ask?” Yang Guo was about to reply when he heard foot steps on the stairs and saw three people coming up.

When Yang Guo and Huang Yaoshi heard the foot steps, they knew the three people’s martial arts were strong and recognized two of them after a glance. One was Xiaoxiang Zi, the other was Yin Kexi, but he did not recognize the third person who had a dark complexion. Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi had seen Yang Guo too and they stood rooted for a moment, then quickly turned around, wanting to get downstairs.

Yang Guo raised his eyebrows and laughed: “We haven’t seen each other for a while! Why in such a hurry?"

Yin Kexi raised his hands and greeted him with a smile: “How is everything with you, master Yang?"

Xiaoxiang Zi was still angry about the fact that Yang Guo broke his arm at Mount Zhongnan sixteen years ago. Although his internal strength had increased a lot, he knew he was no match for Yang Guo. He did not bother to look at Yang Guo again and turned around and started to descend the stairs.

The man with the dark face was another famous warrior of Khubilai’s;  together  with  Yin  Kexi  and Xiaoxiang Zi they were here to scout the vicinity. When he saw that Xiaoxiang Zi looking angry, he loudly said: “Brother Xiaoxiang, wait! If there is a rogue disturbing our mood let me deal with him." He walked over and tried to use his big hand to toss Yang Guo out of the first floor window.

Yang Guo saw that his palm was coloured purple and knew he was trained in the “Poisonous Sand Palms”, he thought: “Why don't I use these three men as an excuse to ask Old Master Huang about the Divine Nun of the South Sea?" He saw that the man's hand was about to touch his shoulder, he put up his palm and slapped the man on the cheek. Huang Yaoshi was shocked: “How very fast!" Just by seeing that slap, he knew that Yang Guo had invented his own style and this style was unique. He heard another two slaps, Xiaoxiang Zi was slapped on his left and right cheek. Yang Guo spared Yin Kexi because he had shown some courtesy.

Huang Yaoshi laughed: “Young brother Yang, your newly invented style is most sophisticated. I would like to see the entire set so as to please my eyes."

Yang Guo said: “I was just about to ask Old Master Huang for some pointers." His body rocked about and he was now displaying his “Melancholic Sad Palms”, his long sleeve whisked around and his left palm was pushing forward. Suddenly he used the stance “Entangled by the Web of Love” and following he added the technique, “Hesitating on Returning to the Empty Valley”, with these two stances he curled Xiaoxiang Zi, Yin Kexi and the other warrior in his waves of palm energy. The three of them were trapped as though in a tidal force and were swaying back and forth; they were totally submissive to Yang Guo's palm. They were nearly unable to stand upright, let alone trying to break free. In a few moments they were at the mercy of Yang Guo. Huang Yaoshi was holding a cup and sighed: “The ancients were drinking wine while reading the Han History Analects; today I am drinking wine and beholding your martial arts. This kind of lofty skill has surpassed the ancients."

Yang Guo said loudly: “Old Master, please give me a few pointers." He waved his palm and Xiaoxiang Zi was pushed towards Huang Yaoshi. Huang Yaoshi did not dare to be leisurely; he pushed out with his left hand and returned Xiaoxiang back to him. He saw that the black-faced warrior was coming towards him now. He first sipped some wine before using his palm to repel that man back too. Yang Guo carefully examined his stances and saw that although his internal power was strong but his techniques were not extraordinarily exquisite. He thought: “If I don't go all out, I cannot force him to display the martial arts of the Divine Nun of the South Sea." He accumulated his energy in his pubic region and increased energy to his palms. That way Xiaoxiang Zi, Yin Kexi and the black-faced warrior were pushed to Huang Yaoshi faster and faster.

After returning a few palms Huang Yaoshi felt that the three men came crashing towards him like tidal waves, the second wave fiercer than the first wave. He thought: “This child's palms become stronger with every stance; he is really one outstanding martial arts master."

At this point the black-faced warrior soared through the sky, his feet first and head back. He was headed towards the face of Huang Yaoshi who tilted his palm to discharge the coming energy force, his right hand trembled a bit and some wine splattered out of the cup. Following were Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi who were soaring through the air now; one was directly flying towards him the other diagonally. Huang Yaoshi called out: “Good!" he put down his cup and used his right palm to retaliate.

Yang Guo and Huang Yaoshi were now several zhang (1 zhang is about 4 meters) apart from each other, and were exchanging palms with each other. Xiaoxiang Zi, Yin Kexi and the black-faced warrior became, as it were, rubber balls or other toys at the hands of Yang and Huang. They were entirely in their control and were sent soaring back and forth. Only after displaying half of his “Melancholic Sad Palms”, the “Changing Peach” and “Descending Flower Palms” of Huang Yaoshi were paling in comparison now. When he saw that Yin Kexi was soaring towards him and he figured that his palm energy was not able to resist it. He flicked his finger and a soft splang sound could be heard, a light and delicate energy burst out and countered the energy blast of Yang Guo. He flicked his finger three times and three groups of splangs could be heard; Xiaoxiang Zi, Yin Kexi and the black-faced warrior had fallen on the floor and fainted. His “Divine Flicking Finger” and the “Melancholic Sad Palms” of Yang Guo were evenly well-matched. Neither one was the winner or the loser.

Both of them laughed heartily and sat down at their table again, they were pouring wine and drinking again. Huang Yaoshi said: “Young brother Yang, the power of your newly created palm stances is very forceful. In the entire realm only the “Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms” of my son-in-law, Guo Jing can be compared to it. My “Changing Peach” and “Descending Flower Palms” are one level inferior."

Yang Guo thanked him repeatedly, then said, “I learned your two great skills “Divine Flicking Finger” and “Jade Flute Swordplay” years ago and when I created this palm skill, I derived some of the essence from your skills. I heard you were once taught by the Divine Nun of the South Sea and learned a palm skill, I would humbly request Elder to display it as an eye-opener for me.”

Huang Yaoshi curiously asked, “Divine Nun of the South Sea? Who’s that? I’ve never heard of such a person.”

Yang Guo’s face turned pale. He stood up and stuttered, “What?! There’s no… no such person as the Divine Nun of the South Sea?”

Huang Yaoshi saw his face change colour and was shocked so he said, “Could it be a young hero who has risen in recent years? This old man is rather ignorant, I’ve never heard of her.”

Yang Guo stood there speechless but his heart was beating wildly, thinking, “Aunt Guo clearly told me Long’er was saved by the Divine Nun of the South Sea, so this whole thing is a lie, this whole thing is a sham to fool me!” He faced the sky and let off a roar which shuddered the whole building, then tears fell to the floor.

Huang Yaoshi said, “If you have any troubles you could tell me, maybe this old man can help you.”

Yang Guo said with a trembling voice, “My heart is in a great turmoil. Please pardon me.” He waved his sleeve and dashed down the stairs, causing some of the planks to break under his force.

Huang Yaoshi wondered what on Earth was going on and mumbled, “Divine Nun of the South Sea? Who could that be?”

Yang Guo increased his speed and rushed around madly, not eating or sleeping for several days, just charging around like a typhoon. It was only when he became half-dead from fatigue that he thought of Xiao Longnu, not even daring to imagine if he would meet her again. In less than a day he had reached the banks of a large river. Finally he could not take it anymore and just boarded the nearest boat he saw, handed two taels of silver to the boatman and went to sleep without even asking where it was heading.

The boat headed east on the choppy river and stopped every few days to trade goods; it was a trading boat. Yang Guo’s heart was still in disarray and did not care where the boat was taking him to; drinking by day and sighing by night, passing several days in that fashion. The boatman received his money and thought he was just an aimless wanderer and did not bother him.

Then one day a trader on board said the boat was nearing Jiaxing and Lin An. When Yang Guo heard ‘Jiaxing’, he was surprised, thinking, “My father’s death was brought about by Huang Rong years ago at the Iron Spear Temple in Jiaxing and his body was eaten by the crows, but what happened to his bones? I must be a filial son and bury his remains properly.” He then got off the boat.

At that time it was the start of winter, and although Jiangnan was not as cold as the north, it was still snowing heavily. Yang Guo put on a cape and started walking. In three days he reached Jiaxing. When he reached there it was evening and he went to a restaurant and ordered some dishes, then asked where the Iron Spear Temple was. He then went out into the snow and went straight there. It was still snowing and the north wind did not show any signs of slackening.

Under the snow’s reflection, he saw that this temple has been abandoned for many years and no one tended to its repairs. The door was rotting away and it creaked open when pushed gently. He entered the temple and saw a statue in a bad shape and the place was filled with cobwebs. There was no one around. More than thirty years ago his father died here and he had never seen his father, which made him even sadder.

He looked around the temple and hoped he could find any traces his father had left behind although so many years had passed. He went to the back of the temple and found a grave and a tombstone between two large trees and the tombstone was covered in snow. He brushed the snow away with his sleeve and read the inscription. When he read it he became very angry. It read, “Unfilial Disciple Yang Kang’s Grave” and the sub-heading read, “Inscribed by his Useless Teacher Qiu Chuji”.

Yang Guo was furious thinking, “This old priest Qiu Chuji was really heartless; even after my father is dead he wouldn’t leave him alone. How was my father unfilial? Humph, what’s the bloody use of being filial to that old Cow-nose? If I don’t go to the Quanzhen Sect and kill those people, my anger will never subside.” He lifted his palm and wanted to smash the tombstone.

Before he could strike, he heard footsteps moving fast outside the temple which sounded strange – they sounded like martial arts experts yet sounded like animals. Yang Guo became curious so he did not strike, then he heard the footsteps heading towards the temple. He quickly got back inside and hid behind the statue, trying to see who it was.

The footsteps came right up to the temple but stopped at the entrance, probably fearing an enemy lying in ambush inside. After a while, they stepped in. Yang Guo peeked at them then almost laughed. He saw four men enter the temple; the four men had their left legs broken, their hands holding a stick and their right legs were clapped in chains; their footsteps made such strange noises because they had to move their feet together.

The leader of the group had a bald and shiny head and only half a left arm. The second person had a lump on his forehead and his left arm stopped at the elbow. The third person was small-sized while the fourth was a huge monk. The four of them looked rather old and were obviously disabled. Yang Guo wondered, “What is their background? Why do they stick together like that and never leave each other?” The leader took out his flint and lit a fire, and then he found a candle and lit it. Yang Guo then saw clearly that apart from the leader, the other three had no eyes in their eye sockets, then he realized, “So these three people depend on the first person to lead the way.”

The bald man held the candle and looked around the temple. The four of them moved like crabs, one following the other and the distance between them was never less than three feet. Yang Guo had concealed himself well. Moreover, these people were disabled and only one of them could see, so they did not find him although their ears were sharp and their movements rather agile. The bald man said, “That old man Ke didn’t reveal our whereabouts or invite helpers to lie in ambush here.”

The third man said, “Correct, he promised not to inform on us. These people are valiant and always keep their word of honour.”

The four people sat on the floor together. The second man said, “Shi Ge (Martial Brother), do you think this old man Ke will really come?”

The first man said, “It’s quite hard to say, but I think he won’t come. Who’s so stupid as to come and seek death?”

The third man said, “But this old man Ke was the head of the Jiangnan Seven Freaks. That year he made a bet with that scoundrel priest Qiu and so he went all the way to Mongolia to teach Guo Jing martial arts. This matter is well-known in Jianghu. Everyone says the Jiangnan Seven Freaks never went back on their word. It’s because of this that we released him.”

Yang Guo heard every word clearly from behind the statue  and  thought,  “So  they’re  waiting  for  Elder  Ke.” Then he heard the second man say, “I say he’ll definitely come. Brother Peng, why don’t we make a bet to see who…” Before he finished talking, they heard footsteps out in the snow which  were  heavy  and  light alternately – someone  was  using  a  walking  staff.  Yang  Guo  knew  Ke  Zhen’E  when  he  was  on  Peach Blossom Island, so he knew it was him immediately. The skinny man laughed, “Brother Hou, that old man Ke is here, you still want to bet?” The man with the lump said, “You scoundrel, are you really not afraid of death?”

A few tapping sounds were heard and the Flying Bat Ke Zhen’E walked in and said, “Ke Zhen’E has kept his word and has come. These are the “Nine Flower Jade Dew Pills”, altogether there are twelve of them, which makes it three for each of you.” He threw a small bottle over to the bald man. He said happily, “Many thanks.” and caught it. Ke Zhen’E said, “This old man has completed his business and is here to die.” He was standing erect proudly in front of them and his beard was floating in the wind.

The man with the lump said, “Shi Ge, he brought us the “Nine Flower Jade Dew Pills” which can treat our internal injuries, moreover we don’t have any deep feud with him, let’s just let him go.”

The skinny man laughed, “Hey, Brother Hou, don’t let the tiger escape back into the wild. Your kindness may cause us to die a horrible death. Although he hasn’t revealed our secret, how can we be sure he’d never do it?” He shouted, “Let’s act together!” The four people rushed over and surrounded Ke Zhen’E.

The old man said hoarsely, “More than thirty years ago, all of us witnessed Yang Kang’s tragic death here, who knew it would happen to you too; this is retribution.”

Ke Zhen’E smashed his walking staff on the floor and said angrily, “That Yang Kang acknowledged a scoundrel as his step-father and betrayed his country for wealth; he was a despicable animal. I, Ke Zhen’E, am a true man who has never let down the sky or the Earth, how can you compare that traitor with me, the Flying Bat? You know you can kill me but you cannot insult me (Ke Sha Bu Ke Ru – A rather common phrase at that time)!”

The skinny man sneered, “You’re about to die and you still try to be a hero!” Three of them shot out their palms together and aimed at his head. Ke Zhen’E knew he was not their match and just stood there, not attempting any retaliation or defense.

Suddenly a gust of wind blew over them and a ‘peng’ sound was heard, causing the dust to fly. The four of them knew something was wrong and felt as if they did not hit any flesh. That bald man understood what was going on but Ke Zhen’E had suddenly disappeared and in his position was the statue. The statue’s head was smashed and fell into pieces under the four people’s combined force.

The bald man was shocked. He turned around and saw a thirty-something year old man with a furious face holding Ke Zhen’E’s neck and lifting him high into the air, shouting, “Why did you insult my father?”

Ke Zhen’E asked, “Who’re you?”

Yang Guo said, “I’m Yang Guo and Yang Kang was my father. When I was young you didn’t treat me badly but why do you slander my late father behind my back?”

Ke Zhen’E coldly said, “There are many men in history, some leave a good reputation for a hundred generations, while some leave behind a stinking name. How can you silence everyone?”

Yang Guo saw that he was very stubborn and became more furious and threw him down hard onto the floor, shouting, “So you’re saying my father was despicable and shameless?”

The bald man saw that Yang Guo’s martial arts were superb since he could swap a person with a statue without even him knowing. He knew he was not his match and lightly tugged at the chain, wanting the group to sneak out of the temple. Yang Guo darted forward and blocked the exit, saying, “No one’s getting out of here alive without giving me an explanation.” The four people yelled and threw out a palm each towards him. Yang Guo said, “Good!” He also shot out his left palm and the force of a tornado smashed onto them, causing them to lose their balance and fall backwards, hitting the statue and smashing it. The second man’s skills were the weakest and his lump hit right smack into the statue, causing him to black out immediately.

Yang Guo said, “Who are you people? Why are you chained together in this strange manner? And why do you want to meet Ke Zhen’E here?” After being hit by Yang Guo’s palm, his chest became congested and his organs seemed to turn upside down, so he sat quietly for a while trying to circulate his chi before talking slowly.

This bald man was Sha Tongtian, the second man was his martial brother the Three Headed Serpent Hou Tonghai, the third man was the Thousand Hand Killer Peng Lianhu, the fourth was the Big Handprint Lama Ling Zi. More than 30 years ago, the Old Urchin Zhou Botong captured them and handed them to Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi who imprisoned them in Chongyang Palace, wanting them to repent before releasing them. But their evil characters were hard to change and they tried many ways and means to escape but were recaptured each time. On their third attempt, Hou Tonghai, Peng Lianhu and Ling Zi killed several of the Quanzhen disciples who were their wardens. The Quanzhen Taoists punished them by breaking their legs and blinding them. Since only Sha Tongtian had killed no one, he was not blinded. Then sixteen years ago the Mongolians overran Chongyang Palace and they managed to escape. However, since three of them were blind, they had to rely on Sha Tongtian to lead the way, but they were afraid that he would desert them, they had chained themselves up in this manner. At that time Yang Guo only spent a short time at Chongyang Palace and was not in his master’s and fellow disciples’ good books. He had never been allowed to go near their cell; therefore he had never seen them and did not know their backgrounds. When they escaped from Chongyang Palace the four of them were disabled so they could not fight the Quanzhen disciples. Although the Quanzhen’s base had been destroyed, their strength in Jianghu had not diminished. They came to Jiangnan and lived in a deserted village, passing sixteen years uneventfully. But one day they came out and saw Ke Zhen’E passing along on a small road. Sha Tongtian was afraid he had come for them so they went to confront him. Ke Zhen’E’s skills were no match for the four people and he was subdued almost immediately. After interrogating him, they found he was attending to some other matters. Although the four of them had no feud with him, they were afraid he would leak out their secret so they wanted to kill him.

Ke Zhen’E swore that he would make a trip to Jiaxing to attend to a matter then he would return to seek death, promising that if they let him off for the time being he would obtain the “Nine Flower Jade Dew Pills” from Peach Blossom Island to return the favour. After their legs were broken, they would ache and hurt whenever it rained. When they heard he would bring them such an effective treatment, they made him swear an oath not to reveal their whereabouts and not to get help to fight them and finally to meet at the Iron Spear Temple.

When Sha Tongtian finished his story, he said, “Hero Yang, when your father was still alive we were guests in his palace. We never did anything against him until he passed away. We hope that you consider our good ties with him and let us off.” Many years ago these four people  were outstanding people in  Jianghu; even if they were threatened by swords and axes they would never be willing to show any weakness. After being disabled and suffering many years of hardship, they discarded their pride and begged Yang Guo for mercy.

Yang Guo snorted and did not bother with them. Facing Ke Zhen’E he said, “So you went to see Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang? What was it about?”

Ke Zhen’E faced the sky and laughed, “Yang Guo ah Yang Guo, you’re really ignorant.” Yang Guo angrily said, “In what way?”

Ke Zhen’E said, “At this stage, I already ignore my old life; even when I was in my prime I have never been intimidated by anyone. No matter how good your martial arts are, you can only frighten people who’re afraid of death. The Jiangnan Seven Freaks never submit under interrogation.”

Yang Guo saw that his manner was imposing and gallant and he respected him. He said, “Elder Ke, I’m at fault, pardon me. I was offended because you insulted my father.  Elder  Ke’s  name  is  well-known throughout the world; I have admired you since young and do not dare offend you.”

Ke Zhen’E said, “This is more like it. I heard your character is good and you contributed  greatly  to Xiangyang, so I regard you as an outstanding person. If you were like your father, by just talking to me you would have insulted me.”

Yang Guo’s anger erupted again and he shouted, “What on Earth had my father done? Tell me clearly.” Among all the people Yang Guo knew, there were many who knew about his father but no one wanted to tell him the whole story in order not to offend him. Even if he asked, they just picked some unrelated details and told him those.

Ke Zhen’E bore a deep grudge against his father and he also did not have any regard for his own life, so he did not care if Yang Guo was offended or not. He told Yang Guo the whole story of Guo Jing and Yang Kang and mentioned how Yang Kang collaborated with Ouyang Feng to kill five of the Jiangnan Seven Freaks. He finally told how he died after striking Huang Rong here in this very temple. Then he said, “These people witnessed everything that happened that night. Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, tell us, have I spoken the truth?”

The six people had smashed the statue and shouted loudly, frightening  the  crows  on  the  roof  of  the temple. They circled in the air and cawed continuously. Sha Tongtian sighed, “That night there were so many crows as well… My hand was scratched by the elder Master Yang, if not for Brother Peng’s quick reaction of cutting off my arm, how could I still be alive today?” Peng Lianhu said, “Old man Ke is more or less correct, but Hero Yang’s father treated us with courtesy and he was really… really outstanding and talented.” [Some background information: In ‘The Legend  of  the  Eagle  Shooting  Heroes’,  Yang  Kang struck the spot on Huang Rong’s Soft Armour which had Ouyang Feng’s poison on it. As a  result  he eventually died from the poison; when he scratched Sha Tongtian the poison was spread to him, so his arm had to be amputated.]

Yang Guo held his head with both hands in grief and indignation – he never expected his father to be such an evil traitor. No matter how great he had  become,  it  was  hard  to  erase  his  father’s  bad  name.  The  six people sat there silently while the crows continued cawing.

After a long time, Ke Zhen’E said, “Master Yang, you have contributed greatly at Xiangyang; no matter how many wrongdoings your father committed, you have already made up for him. Even in the Underworld he would be proud of you.” Yang Guo thought back to his relationship with the Guo couple and remembered how Huang Rong did not trust him. Many of the misunderstandings in the past resulted from this. But without his father how would he be here? Still, many of his problems originated from his father, so he gave a long sigh and asked Ke Zhen’E, “Elder Ke, how are Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang?”

Ke Zhen’E said, “They heard about how you burned the supplies at Nanyang and how you annihilated the Mongolian vanguard, so they were delighted. They asked every detail about you and also asked if you had news of Xiao Longnu. They really miss you a lot, but it’s a pity I don’t know much myself.”

Yang Guo said, “I’ve not seen my two sworn sisters for sixteen years.” Suddenly he turned around and told Sha Tongtian, “Elder Ke has promised to give his life to you, he is a man of honour and never goes back on his word. Now you can act. If you gang up on him you can win by numbers and kill him. But if you do that I will kill you dogs to avenge him.”

They sat wordlessly for a while. Then Peng Lianhu said, “The four of us are really foolish and we offended old Hero Ke; we beg you two great men to forgive us.”

Yang Guo said, “Then remember that now it is you who must keep your word and do not dare kill Elder Ke.”

Peng Lianhu said, “Yes, yes. Old Hero Ke is a man of honor, we really admire him.”

Yang Guo said, “Then leave quickly. Don’t cause me trouble again.” The four men bowed together and left the temple. Yang Guo saved Ke Zhen’E’s life as well as defended his honor, so he was really grateful. The two men kicked away the broken pieces of the statue and sat down.

Ke Zhen’E said, “Actually I came to Jiaxing because of the younger Miss Guo.” Yang Guo was slightly surprised, asking, “What happened to her?”

Ke Zhen’E sighed but smiled, “Each of Guo Jing’s daughters are mischievous in their own way, which really causes a lot of headaches. No one knows why that girl Guo Xiang left Xiangyang without saying a word and no one knows where she is. Her father, in his anxiety, sent out people to find her whereabouts, but so far she can not be traced. Some of them actually came to Peach Blossom Island to look for her. But why would such an active young girl come to Peach Blossom Island to keep this blind old man company? I also became worried and came here to help find her.”

Yang Guo said, “So have you got any news?”

Ke Zhen’E said, “Yesterday I was at Linan and I heard two Mongols saying that Hero Guo’s daughter had been captured and imprisoned in the Mongolian Camp…”

Yang Guo exclaimed, “Ah! Is this true?”

Ke Zhen’E said, “The two Mongolian armies have come to attack Xiangyang, yet the Imperial Court’s officials still think they can make peace. These two Mongols must be here to fool our officials, so their ranks must be very high. I lived with the Mongolians for many years and although I’m blind my ears are very sharp so I heard it very clearly.”

Yang Guo said, “So this is true?”

Ke Zhen’E said, “Yes! I originally wanted to send poison  to  those  two  Mongolians,  but  reporting  the matter to Xiangyang is more urgent so I didn’t want to be stuck with this problem. Unfortunately I met those four criminals along the way. I don’t really care when I die but the news concerning Guo Xiang must be reported. I requested several days’ grace and came to Jiaxing to relay the news to Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang. After receiving the news they went north immediately, and so I came to seek death. I never expected that I would keep my promise while those four scum didn’t, Ha-ha-ha!”

Yang Guo remained quiet for some time before asking, “Elder Ke, did you happen to overhear where Miss Guo is held? Is her life in danger?”

Ke Zhen’E said, “They didn’t mention it; from what I heard it seems like those two Mongols aren’t too sure themselves.”

Yang Guo said, “This is really urgent, I must rush there and conduct a rescue operation. Elder Ke, please take your time.”

Ke Zhen’E heard from the Beggar Clan members who came to Peach Blossom Island to look for Guo Xiang and talk about Yang Guo’s great deeds at Xiangyang, so he knew that he was exceptionally capable. He said, “With you going, I don’t have to worry.” Yang Guo said, “Elder Ke, I’d like to ask for a favour  –  please  help  honor  my  father  and  erect  a  new tombstone which says, ‘My Father Lord Yang Kang’s Grave, by his unfilial son Yang Guo’.”

Ke Zhen’E was surprised then he realized what he wanted, saying, “Absolutely right! Although you’re unfilial, being unfilial has far surpassed others being filial. I’ll definitely do it.”

Yang Guo went back to Jiaxing and bought three good horses and set off towards the north immediately. Throughout the entire journey he kept switching horses to prevent any delays  and  he  reached  the Mongolian camp the same day.

The Mongolian Khan was trying to capture Xiangyang but they had suffered two great defeats without knowing why. Furthermore their supplies at Nanyang were burned completely and they lost many soldiers. Their morale was low and they did not know the real situation of the Song soldiers. So they camped in the north of Nanyang and did not stir. Their flags were all over the place and their weapons were displayed for all to see. Yang Guo swept across the camp with his eyes and saw tent after tent, seemingly unending.

Yang Guo waited for nightfall and snuck into the camp to scout around. He only saw that their weapons were neatly arranged and the whole camp was in order; this would be really serious for the Song army. Yang Guo knew there were many great fighters in the camp and he could not fight them all so he was careful not to reveal himself. After sneaking around for half a night he still could not find out where Guo Xiang was held. He managed to capture an advisor who spoke Mandarin and interrogated him, but the advisor claimed he had not even heard of the matter at all.

Yang Guo was still worried and he examined the camp for a few days. Finally he determined that she was not in the camp and thought, “It looks like Uncle Guo has already rescued her or perhaps those two Mongol officials had just heard some rumors.” Then after checking the dates he found that it was nearing his reunion with Xiao Longnu, so he hurriedly headed towards the Passionless Valley.

End of Chapter 37. 
@Chapter 38 – Life and Death Are Boundless
When Guo Xiang saw Jinlun Fawang ruthlessly kill the Long Beard Ghost and the Big Head Ghost her heart was filled with sorrow; yet she knew it would be impossible to get away from his vicious hands, so she said, "Quickly kill me, what are you waiting for?”

Fawang laughed, "Killing a cute girl like you is too easy. But I have killed two men, and that’s enough for today. I'll deal with you after a few days. For now just follow me." Guo Xiang knew fighting him would be futile, she thought she’d better follow him and wait for a good opportunity to escape. So she just made faces at him, stuck her tongue out and unhurriedly mounted the horse.

Fawang was very pleased, he silently thought, “The Emperor wanted to have Guo Jing’s life at all costs, but has never been able to succeed. Today I caught Guo Jing’s beloved daughter; he could be forced to surrender. If Guo Jing is not willing to surrender, we will just torture the girl below the city wall; that way Guo Jing’s mind will be disturbed so that Xiangyang’s defenses will be weakened.”

That evening they stopped by an empty house along their way. The people had left the area early on; all the villages were desolate. They were fortunate to find a house with its four walls intact. Jinlun Fawang gave his dried biscuits to Guo Xiang, and then let the girl sleep inside a room while he sat meditating in the main hall.

Guo Xiang was tossing and turning; how could she sleep well? Around midnight she heard Fawang's snore, she took a peek and saw him sitting against the wall. She was delighted. Carefully she opened the window and snuck out. She then tore her robe into four pieces, with which she wrapped her horse’s hoofs. Then she walked her horse carefully away. After about half a ‘li’ (about ¼ km) she did not see Fawang following, so she mounted the horse and galloped to the northwest. She thought that when Fawang awoke; he would think Guo Xiang was running south, back to Xiangyang. The horse ran for about an hour then slowed down because of fatigue. She often looked back, still no Fawang in sight. She kept moving for about fifty or sixty li, and only then did she feel relieved.

Guo Xiang arrived at a little pathway going up a small hill. She followed that path going higher and higher. The path was turning in front of her, when, out of the blue, she heard somebody snoring very loudly like the rumble of thunder. She saw somebody was sleeping across the path in front of her and she almost fell off the horse’s back! It was Jinlun Fawang, with his baldhead and yellow robe. She turned her horse around and galloped downhill as fast as her horse could carry her, this time toward the southeast. She looked back and saw Fawang was still sleeping soundly.

A moment later she got to a small forest, with a lot of trees. Again, she was shocked! A man was hanging by his feet from a tree branch. Who else if not Jinlun Fawang? By now she was enraged. Jinlun Fawang was looking at her and laughed mockingly.

“If you want to capture me, just do it! Why would you play a crazy game like this?” she said. She charged her horse toward him, and suddenly swung her whip toward the monk’s face. Her horse leaped forward at the same time so that they passed the monk. Then she tried to pull her whip back, but she felt a strong force pulling her in the opposite direction; her body was lifted up from the saddle. When the  whip  was lashing toward Fawang, the monk opened his mouth and bit it, he then pulled the whip and Guo Xiang was pulled towards him.

Airborne, Guo Xiang did not panic; she saw Fawang stoop to snatch her, and deliberately let go of the whip so that she fell down. Fawang was shocked, he thought she was too weak to hold on to the whip and that’s why she fell. Immediately he jumped down and readied himself to catch her. “Watch out!” he said.

“Aiyo!” Guo Xiang pretended to be hurt. Her body was only two feet away from the monk. Suddenly she exerted her energy and threw both hands toward the monk’s chest in rapid succession. ‘Bang! Bang!’ Fawang fell down and looked to her like he’d fainted. Even though Fawang’s skill was high, he had not expected Guo Xiang would launch a sneak attack like that.

Guo Xiang was delighted; it was better than what she had expected. Quickly she lifted up a big rock to smash his baldhead. But she had never killed anybody in her life before. True, this monk had killed two of her friends, but still she did not have a heart to kill him. Finally she put the stone down, and thrust her fingers out to seal Fawang’s accupoints: ‘heavenly support’ [tian ding] on his neck, and ‘body pillar’ [shen zhu] on his back. Then she sealed ‘divine grace’ [shen feng] on his chest, ‘crystal cold abyss’ [qing leng yuan] on his arm, ‘windy city’ [feng shi] on his leg and few others. In one breath her hands moved rapidly, sealing a total of thirteen accupoints. She was not satisfied yet. She lifted four heavy stones, of about a dozen jins each, and placed them on top of Fawang’s body.

“Wicked man…Oh, wicked man!” she said, “Today your Miss does not want to kill you, but remember that you should repent and not hurt anybody anymore.” Then she mounted her horse ready to leave. Jinlun Fawang suddenly opened up his eyes, looked at her and laughed, “Little Miss, you have a very kind heart,” he said, “This old monk likes you very much!”

While he was still talking, the four stones on his body suddenly flew up and fell crashing down with a loud noise, while the monk himself leaped up. Somehow he managed to unseal his own thirteen accupoints. Guo Xiang was so startled that she froze.

Fawang indeed was hit by Guo Xiang, but he wasn’t injured. The martial arts level between them was like heaven and earth. Fawang only pretended to fall down and faint. He was curious as to what Guo Xiang would do to him. He let his accupoints be sealed and even let Guo Xiang place big stones on his body. He thought, “This child has a kind heart, much better than my two disciples. She is perfect.” Right then and there he decided to take Guo Xiang as his disciple.

Jinlun Fawang had three disciples. His first disciple was well versed in martial arts and literature. He was very talented and Fawang had intended to make him his successor. It's a pity he died very young. His second disciple, Da’erba, was naïve and simple; his talent was just average. His third disciple was Prince Hou Dou; he had an ill character and moreover, he betrayed his master and martial brother. Fawang was disappointed. He had reached the pinnacle of martial arts. He was a monk, therefore, no children. The only way he could pass on his skill was by taking on disciples. If not, in a hundred years, wouldn’t his exquisite martial arts vanish? Therefore, seeing Guo Xiang was talented and kind hearted, he immediately made a decision to take her as his successor. He did not care if Guo Xiang was his enemy’s daughter. Wasn’t she still young and innocent? He was certain that eventually he would be  able  to  shape  her character. Because of this thought he gave up his original plan of torturing Guo Xiang and disturbing Guo Jing’s mind.

Guo Xiang stared at the monk. His eyes rolled, his mouth shut. She dismounted her horse and came  near him.

“Old Monk,” she said, “your skill is very high, it’s a pity you have a wicked heart.”

“If you admire my skill,” said the monk, laughing, “take me as your master. I’ll teach you everything I know.”

“Pfft!” Guo Xiang snickered, “Why would I learn a Monk’s skill? I don’t want to be a nun!”

Fawang laughed. “How could learning my skills make you a nun?” he said, “You have sealed my accupoints, I unsealed them myself. You put stones on me, those stones flew up. You have run away riding a horse, but I could sleep in front of your horse! Don’t you think all those skills are worth learning?”

Guo Xiang knew the monk was highly skilled, but she also knew he was ruthless. How could she take him as her master? Besides, she was busy looking for Yang Guo. She didn’t want to waste any time chitchatting with the monk. So she shook her head.

“Even if you have a higher skill, I still don’t want to take a wicked  man  like  you  as  my  master!”  she honestly said.

“Uh, how would you know I am a wicked man?” asked Fawang.

“You easily killed the Long Beard Ghost and Big Head Ghost! They were not even your enemies, why did you kill them?”

Fawang laughed. “Don’t take me wrong!” he said, “I was just helping you to get a horse. They were the ones who attacked me first! Didn’t you see? If my skill was low, wouldn’t I be dead at their hands? A monk has to have a benevolent heart; he would not kill if the situation were not pressing …”

“Hmm!” Guo Xiang snickered. She didn’t want to believe him. “What kind a person are you? If you were a good person, you would let me go.”

“Didn’t I let you go?” the monk countered. “You had a horse and you were free to go to the east or west. I was just sleeping on the road! I didn’t even touch you!”

“If that’s the case, then let me go looking for Brother Yang. Don’t you say another word!” she said.

“Oh, I can’t do that!” Fawang shook his head. “You have to take me as your master; you’ll have to be under my tutelage for twenty years. After that, you are free to look for anybody you wish.”

Guo Xiang was upset. “Old Monk, you don’t have any manners! I don’t want to take you as my master! Why do you force me?”

“You are the one who doesn’t have any manners!” said the monk. “Where in the world could you find a highly skilled master like me? Although other people begged and kowtowed to me three hundred times, I did not take them as disciples. On the other hand, you have found a very good opportunity, a once in a thousand years opportunity, but you refused it. Aren’t you the eccentric one?”

“Shameless! You are shameless!” Guo Xiang stuck her tongue out and put her fingers on her cheeks. “Who said you are a highly skilled master? You can’t even overcome me, a teenage girl. What’s wrong with you? Can you defeat my father and mother? Can you defeat my grandfather, the Old Master Huang? Let’s not talk about father or mother or grandfather, you can’t even defeat my Brother Yang Guo! Huh!”

“Who said that?” shouted Fawang. “Who said I couldn’t defeat that kid Yang Guo?”

“Everybody in the world did!” answered Guo Xiang. “Just a few days ago we had a Heroes Summit at Xiangyang. Everybody said that even three Jinlun Fawangs could not possibly defeat the one-armed Eagle Hero Yang Guo!”

Actually, Guo Xiang was just rambling on to provoke Fawang’s anger. The Heroes Summit only discussed the defense of Xiangyang and strategies to fight the Mongolians. Even if someone did actually mention Fawang and Yang Guo, how would she know? She wasn’t even in attendance. But her words were right on Fawang’s sore spot; the fact was, that more than ten years ago, Fawang was defeated  by  Yang  Guo. Therefore, Fawang was livid!

“If Yang Guo were here,” he said loud and angry, “I would give him a lesson in the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’. I want him to suffer very badly, so that the world will know who is better, Yang Guo or me.”

“You know Yang Guo is not here, therefore you dare to boast!” said Guo Xiang, provokingly. “Do you have the guts to find him and fight? Your skill, the ‘Snake and Pig Clumsy Technique’... ”

“That’s the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’!” Fawang cut her off. He was so upset his ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’ became ‘Snake and Pig Clumsy Technique’ … Of course he was furious.

“If you can beat Brother Yang Guo, then it is ‘Dragon and Elephant’,” said Guo Xiang. “Otherwise, if you are beaten in just one stance, you are no more than ‘Snake and Pig’! If you can defeat Brother Yang Guo, you won’t have to force me, I will come and beg you to be my master … Only I know for sure that you are afraid to go and find Brother Yang. So let’s not waste our breath here! I am sure you will run with your tail between your legs as soon as you see even his shadow!”

Fawang was not stupid. He knew the girl was just trying to inflame his anger, but he was a proud man. The only disgrace in his life was his defeat by Yang Guo. Now that he had mastered the tenth level of the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’, fighting Yang Guo was at the top of his list. Therefore, hearing Guo Xiang, he said with confidence, “When I told you I knew where he was, I was just deceiving you. Too bad I don’t know his whereabouts. If I did, I would certainly find him. I will beat him and make him kowtow to me begging for mercy!”

Guo Xiang clapped her hands, she laughed mockingly. “O monk, a liar monk!” she shouted. “You are boasting yourself as a valiant man with unmatched in skills; but as soon as you see Yang Guo come from the east, you will certainly run to the west!”

“Pei!” Fawang spat, seething with anger.

“Even though I have no idea where Brother Yang Guo is right now, I do know where he will be in about a month,” said Guo Xiang.

“Where will he be?” asked Fawang.

“Why would I tell you? You are scared of him anyway! Forget it! It will only cause nightmares and your heart will be troubled.”

Fawang was so angry that he gnashed his teeth. “Tell me … tell me!” he barked.

“He is going to the Passionless Valley!” Guo Xiang explained. “He is going to the Broken Heart Cliff! He will meet with Xiao Longnu, his wife. One Yang Guo will scare the hell out of you; if he is with Xiao Longnu

… hey … hey … Ah old monk, why do you want to go to the Broken Heart Cliff just to be beaten to death?”

For more than ten years Fawang had trained his new skill, the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’. He wanted to test this new skill against the ‘Jade Maiden Sword Technique’ of the Yang-Long couple. He felt that his training was complete, at least enough to fight the couple. He had sworn not to set his foot on the central plains again if he could not defeat the couple. Therefore, Guo Xiang’s speech was again on target. Out of anger he laughed.

“All right, fine. Let us leave for the Passionless Valley right now,” he said, “but what if I can defeat both Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu?”

“If you really are any good, why wouldn’t I take you as my master?” countered the girl. “Only thing is, the Passionless Valley is so remote and difficult to find …”

“Don’t you worry!” laughed Fawang. “I know that place, I’ve been there. It’s still early; you follow me to the camp. I have some business to attend to. I’ll take you to the Passionless Valley afterward.”

Hearing this, Guo Xiang was relieved. She thought, “I was afraid you wouldn’t want to go. Now that you want to, why should I be worried? O monk, you may be arrogant, you may be highly skilled, but just wait till you meet Brother Yang!” Thus she followed the monk to the Mongolian camp without hesitation.

Fawang was determined to take Guo Xiang as his disciple; he wanted her to inherit all his skills. And since he had to win her heart first, he treated Guo Xiang with utmost courtesy and respect. It is difficult to find a good master in the martial world; but it is equally difficult to find a talented disciple. Along the way Fawang found out that Guo Xiang was really smart and talented, therefore, he was more and more delighted.

Guo Xiang often chided him for killing the Long Beard Ghost and the Big Head Ghost; but Fawang wasn’t unhappy, on the contrary, he praised her for having a benevolent heart, unlike his own ruthless Hou Dou.

Fawang took Guo Xiang to the Mongolian camp, the one where Khubilai – the Emperor’s cousin, was. It was the southern camp; while the one Yang Guo investigated was the northern one – where the Mengke Khan was. The two officials who were overheard by Ke Zhen’E spoke in general term, while Ke Zhen’E himself was not aware that there were two different camps. Thus Yang Guo's search was in vain.

Actually Fawang and Guo Xiang left for the Passionless Valley not too long after Yang Guo, but because Yang Guo was in haste, the distance between them was more than a hundred li. This made Yang Guo arrive at the Passionless Valley a few days earlier than they did.

o0o

In Xiangyang, Guo Jing and Huang Rong were so worried about their daughter. They have dispatched dozens of Beggar Clan disciples to try to find her. They came back in a few days with a unanimous report: no trace of Guo Xiang.

After about ten days, Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang arrived in Xiangyang. They brought news from Ke Zhen’E that Guo Xiang was captured and brought to the Mongolian camp. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were very shocked! That night Huang Rong and Cheng Ying went to the enemy’s camp. But just like Yang Guo, they did not find anything. On the third night they were sighted; which resulted in a battle with  the Mongolian officers. They were surrounded by more than forty soldiers, but with their swords’ help, they would escape and get back home to Xiangyang.

Huang Rong was baffled. She believed Guo Xiang was not inside the Mongolian camp. But since there was no other news, she became more worried than ever. She discussed this situation with Guo Jing. They decided since there was no sign of Mongolian troop movement yet, that Huang Rong should go and search for Guo Xiang. She would take their two white eagles, with the intention of using them as couriers later on.

Lu Wushuang and Cheng Ying immediately expressed their intentions of coming along with Huang Rong. She quickly agreed, since they would be valuable helpers. They came out of Xiangyang, went around the enemy’s camp, and went northwest. Their destination was Fenglingdu. Huang Rong thought, “This time Xiang’er’s intention is to find Yang Guo, and since they first met around a ferry crossing in Tongguan, perhaps we will find some clues around that place.”

This journey took place in the winter. They proceeded slowly because they needed to ask people along the way about Guo Xiang. It was already toward the end of the second month when they finally arrived at Fenglingdu; the ice had already melted. There again they asked lots of people that might have seen Guo Xiang: the peddlers, cart drivers, restaurant workers, and anybody who would possibly see somebody fitting Guo Xiang’s description. But so far the result was negative.

“Shi Jie (older martial sister), don’t you worry,” Cheng Ying tried to console Huang Rong. “Xiang’er is a very lucky girl. Just remember the day she was born; she was fought over by Jinlun Fawang and Li Mochou, both were the epitome of evil. Didn’t somebody say that if someone survives a grave danger, one would be lucky all one’s life? She was in grave danger then, and she survived. So I believe she will survive now.”

Huang Rong sighed, but didn’t say anything.

The three of them left Fenglingdu and headed out of town. The sun was shining, the weather was getting warmer, and they could feel the southerly breeze. Spring was coming. Cheng Ying was trying to entertain Huang Rong. She pointed to a flower bush and said, “Shi Jie, here in the north the spring comes much later. Just look at these peach blossom buds. Aren’t they already blooming on the Peach Blossom Island? I think they may even have sprouted some fruits already.” She picked a peach blossom, played with it and softly singing, “I ask the flower, but I have no answer. Why do flowers fall? Why do they bloom? A third part for the spring, the other third float on the water, and the rest fall back to the earth …”

Huang Rong gazed at Miss Cheng. She was beautiful, just like Huang Rong always remembered her. She recalled how Cheng Ying lived a quiet life and couldn’t help but feeling sad for her. She was still daydreaming when suddenly her ears caught a buzzing noise. It was a big honey bee. It flew around the peach blossom in Cheng Ying’s hand, and then landed on another flower, gathering nectar. That bee was gray and bigger than average bees. Suddenly a thought flashed in her mind.

“This bee looks like Xiao Longnu’s Jade Bees. How come it is here?” she asked no one in particular. “You are right,” said Wushuang. “Let us follow this bee. See where the beehive is …”

That bee flew around the flower bushes, and finally flew toward the northwest. The three of them used their lightness kungfu to follow. The bee flew and landed on some other flowers along the way. Not too long afterwards they saw two other bees. Near dusk they arrived at a very beautiful valley. The trees were green and the mountains looked purple. It was a captivating scene. Toward the hillside there hung seven or eight beehives made of wood. Those three bees flew into one of the hives.

On the other side of the hill they saw three thatched huts. There were two small foxes playing around in front of the house, their eyes gazed toward the visitors. About that time the middle door swung open, and out came an old man with a very healthy countenance, his face so fresh like that of a young boy.

Seeing this old man, Huang Rong was thrilled. “Old Urchin, look who’s here! Look here!”

That old man was indeed Zhou Botong. He lifted his head, laughing heartily and started running toward Huang Rong. But after only a few steps he stopped abruptly. He blushed, turned around and ran fast to the house; ‘bang!’ he slammed the door shut!

Huang Rong was surprised; she had no idea why he behaved peculiarly. She came to the door and banged it. “Old Urchin… Old Urchin!” she called, “There are guests coming from afar, why are you hiding?” Huang Rong kept banging the door, but Botong shouted, “No! I am not going to open the door!”

“Are you sure?” Huang Rong chuckled. “I am going to light a fire, I am going to burn your dog house down to ashes!”

Huang Rong was just shutting her mouth up when suddenly the door on the  left  opened,  out  came  a smiling monk who said, “To this remote hill and quiet forest came honorable guests.  The  old  monk welcomes you!”

Huang Rong turned around and saw Reverend Yideng was smiling sweetly, his hands clasped in respect. Quickly she came over and bowed to him.

“Ah, turns out the Venerable Monk and Old Urchin are neighbors!” she said, chuckling. “It really is beyond my expectations! But why did Old Urchin close his door and refuse to welcome his guests?”

Reverend Yideng laughed. “Don’t mind him!” he said, “Please come into my hut, I will serve you tea.”

Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang came and paid their respects, expressing their gratitude they went inside the Reverend’s hut.

Yideng immediately served them tea. Huang Rong asked of his well-being since the last time they met. “Madam Guo, can you guess who lives in the other hut?” he asked, smiling.

Huang Rong thought for a moment. She wondered why the Old Urchin’s behavior was so strange. Then she laughed and recited this poem, ‘In the deepest of dawn’s cold, when the green spring grass ripples, standing face to face taking a bath wearing red clothes.’ Good! Very good!” The ‘In the deepest of dawn’s cold’ was part of ‘si zhang ji’ [four looms/weaving machines] poem written by Concubine Liu Yinggu many years ago.

Reverend Yideng laughed heartily. His heart was free; he did not concern himself with past matters. He clapped his hands and said, “Madam Guo is very smart, I did not expect you to guess correctly!” And then he walked to the door and called, “Yinggu, Yinggu, come over here, come meet our old friends!”

A moment later, Yinggu came over with a wooden tray in her hands, full with green fruits and honey.

Huang Rong and her company quickly bowed in respect, and then the five of them sat and talked happily. Didn’t old acquaintances gather together? Huang Rong was very happy. For a long, long time, the three were involved with love, hatred and revenge. But now Zhou Botong, Reverend Yideng and Yinggu had set aside their differences, opened their hearts and made peace with each other. They spent their sunset years living together in this beautiful valley, the ‘Hundred-Flower Valley’ [wan hua gu]. They became beekeepers, did some gardening, and even worked a rice field. But the Old Urchin was embarrassed, that was the reason he hid himself. Still, he could not resist listening to their conversation. He eavesdropped from his room. He heard Huang Rong’s narration of the Heroes Summit at Xiangyang, the festivities, everything, until she came to the part where Prince Hou Dou’s disguise was uncovered. She deliberately changed the subject and continued. Zhou Botong could not resist hearing everything. He opened his door and came barging in.

“And then what?” he asked impatiently, “Did Hou Dou run away?” They laughed. The conversation became more and more animated!

That night the guests slept in Yinggu’s hut. The next morning Huang Rong woke  up  early  and  went outside; she saw Zhou Botong was dancing around like crazy, a big bee in his hand.

“Hey, Old Urchin, what are you doing?” Huang Rong asked, chuckling. “You look extremely happy.”

“Hey, Little Huang Rong, my skill is getting better by the day,” came the answer, “Will you or won’t you admire me?”

Huang Rong knew this old man very well; his two traits were: first, he loved to fool around; second, he was crazy about martial arts. After living alone in this remote area for more than ten years, it could be that he had improved his martial arts considerably, or it could be that he had invented some new and weird stances. She remembered his ‘Mutual Hands Combat technique’, ‘Dividing One’s Mind’, ‘Left Hand Fighting the Right Hand.’ Hence she was laughing before she even answered his question.

“If you are talking about martial arts, I have always admired you since I was a child,” she said. [Zhou Botong was held captive on Peach Blossom Island when Huang Rong was a baby,– see LOCH] “I admit inferiority. Why did you even mention it? I wonder what new and wonderful stances you have invented these past few years?”

But Botong shook his head. “Oh no… No!” he declined, “It was little Yang Guo who is crazy about martial arts these past few years. He has invented the ‘Melancholy Sad Palms' [An Ran Xiao Hun Zhang], which put me to shame. Therefore, let’s not talk about martial arts.”

Secretly, Huang Rong was very impressed. “This kid Yang Guo is amazing,” she thought, “First it was Guo Xiang, a mere child. Now it is the Old Urchin, a veteran. Everybody praises him. I wonder what kind of kung fu “An Ran Xiao Hun Zhang" is?” Then she asked, “Well, you just said that your skill is getting better by the day. What kind of skill is that?”

Zhou Botong lifted up his hand – with the bee in it, high in the air. He looked so proud. “This is my skill: keeping bees!” he said.

“Those bees were given to you by Xiao Longnu. What’s so special about it?” Huang Rong asked.

“This is the amazing part,” said the Old Urchin. “The Jade Bees given to me by Xiao Longnu were valuable creatures. After I took care of them, they become even more valuable, very rare, and second to none! This is amazing! How could Xiao Longnu be compared to me?”

Huang Rong laughed a big laugh! “Oh Old Urchin, you have become more shameless than ever!” she said. “This time you blew your own horn really loud. Your ego is unrivalled, very rare indeed! Now, THAT is second to none!”

Zhou Botong was not angry, he even chuckled. “Oh Little Huang Rong, let me ask you this: Human beings are the most intelligent creature; we can tattoo our own body, making pictures of dragons, tigers, or leopards. We can even tattoo a whole book, ‘Peace and Security under the Heaven’ [tian xia tai ping]. However, other than human beings; among the birds or the beasts or the bugs, are there any tattoos?”

“Yes, there are,” answered Huang Rong. “Tigers have stripes, leopards have spots, butterflies and snakes could be decorated with beautiful patterns.”

“But answer this,” continued Botong, “on the bugs, have you ever seen characters?” “Are you talking about natural bugs?” Huang Rong asked. “If so, then the answer is no.” “Good! Now let me show you this!” And he stretched his arm toward Huang Rong.

Huang Rong looked at the bee carefully. She saw that on the bee’s wings there were indeed characters! She looked closer, wanted to know what they said. There were three characters on the right wing, ‘Qing Valley’s bottom’ [Qing Gu Di] and another set of three characters on the left wing, ‘I am at Jue’ [Wo Cay Jue]. The characters were the size of a grain of rice, yet they were very clear. They looked like they were made with needles.

Huang Rong was amazed, she muttered, “Qing Gu Di, Wo Cay Jue, Qing Gu Di, Wo Cay Jue … This obviously was not natural, someone must have written it. Considering the Old Urchin’s character, he would not have a patience to write these letters … A moment later she said, “You said this is very rare, second to none. But I am sure you have asked Yinggu to tattoo these six characters! How could you fool me?”

Zhou Botong blushed. “You go and ask Yinggu!” he challenged. “You ask if it was she who tattooed the bee!”

“Don’t you think she will conspire with you and lie to me?” Huang Rong asked. “If you said the sun rises from the west, she would certainly say the same thing.”

“That’s a fact!” said the Old Urchin, “The sun indeed rises from the west. Who said it was from the east?” Even though he said that, his face turned redder. He was embarrassed, shy, and irritated at the same time. He let the bee go and grabbed Huang Rong’s hand.

“Come! Come! Come!” he said, “I will let you see it with your own eyes.”

He pulled Huang Rong to the side of the hill where a beehive was hung, separated from the other beehives. He stretched his arm into the beehive and caught two bees.

“Now, see this!” he said, showing the Jade Bees to her.

Huang Rong strained her eyes. She found both bees had the three-character sets on their wings. The characters also read, ‘Qing Gu Di’ on the right wing and ‘Wo Cay Jue’ on the left wing. She was more amazed. “This is really peculiar,” she thought. “I need to get to the bottom of this …” So she said, “Old Urchin, please catch a few more bees for me!”

Zhou Botong caught four bees, two had characters just like the other, and the other two didn’t have any. He showed them to Huang Rong who was silent and did not say that Yinggu tattooed the bees again.

“Now, what else do you have to say?” he asked, laughing heartily. “Today you see the Old Urchin’s amazing skill!”

Huang Rong did not reply, she kept murmuring, “Qing Gu Di, Wo Cay Jue, Qing Gu Di, Wo Cay Jue …” She was still pondering the sentence when suddenly a thought came to her mind, “Ah, it is: ‘I am at the bottom of Passionless [Jue Qing] Valley’ [Wo Cay Jue Qing Gu Di]. Who is at the bottom of the Passionless Valley? Could it be Xiang’er?” Her heart was beating faster. She turned her head to look at Zhou Botong, and said, “Old Urchin, these Jade Bees were not yours. They flew in from somewhere else!”

Again the Old Urchin blushed. “Ah, this is weird!” he shouted, “How did you know that?”

“Why wouldn’t I know?” answered Huang Rong. “These few bees have been flying in for some time now.”

“Actually, they have been flying here for a few years,” said Botong, “but I never suspected it and never examined their wings. It was just a few months ago that I found out about it.”

“Is that true it has been a few years?” Huang Rong asked, thinking hard. “That’s correct! Why would I lie to you?”

Huang Rong was quiet while she walked back to the house. She wanted to see Reverend Yideng, Yinggu, Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang to discuss these extraordinary bees, which she believed must have come from the Passionless Valley. They agreed that something unusual must have been happening in that valley. Because she was continually thinking about her daughter, she asked Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang to accompany her to the valley.

“We have nothing to do here, let us go together,” Reverend Yideng said. “Your daughter and I met the other day. She was really sweet. The Old Monk likes her very much.”

“Thank you,” said Huang Rong, who was saddened by his remark. She thought, “Looks like Reverend Yideng thinks Xiang’er is in trouble, maybe grave danger; if not, I don’t think he would be willing to leave this peaceful and quiet place to go with us.”

Zhou Botong loved action; how could he be left behind? He offered to come along and even persuaded Yinggu to come too.

Huang Rong was comforted. She had three more highly skilled companions. With six people, she believed not many things or enemies would hinder their endeavor to find Guo Xiang. Even if she faced a formidable enemy, Huang Rong believed they would be able to help her.

And so six people and two eagles started the journey to the Passionless Valley.

o0o

In the meantime, Yang Guo realized the appointed meeting time Xiao Longnu had promised him  was drawing near. He didn’t dare slow down; he made the trip day and night, only stopping for meals and short rests along the way. He arrived at the Passionless Valley on the second day of the third month. He was five days early from his sixteen-year appointment with Xiao Longnu.

The Passionless Valley was quiet; nobody was around. The magnificent building complex built by the Gongsun family, was reduced to ruins. In the sixteen years since they parted Yang Guo had visited the valley several times. He used to stay for a few days, wishing the Nan Hai Shen Ni would show mercy and let Xiao Longnu meet him earlier. Every time he came it was with enthusiasm; he left the valley dejected.

Now he saw the forest was thick, but the hills were empty, without any trace of  Xiao  Longnu.  He immediately went to the Broken Heart Cliff, crossed the stone bridge to the message  carved  by  Xiao Longnu’s sword on the stone. He lovingly traced the letters with his fingers, and cleaned out the moss at the same time. Afterward he would slowly read the letter, ‘Xiao Longnu addresses my husband Yang-lang, please treasure this, and begs that you fulfill this reunion’. His heart was shaken.

For a whole day he kept looking at the characters. That night, he spent the night sleeping on a rope tied between two trees. The next day he looked around the valley where the Passionless Flowers used to be. He and Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang had destroyed them. The flowers were completely gone; instead, he found out that the flower, which he named Dragon Lady Flower [Long Nu Hua], had spread to other places. He picked a bouquet of these flowers and placed them in front of the characters at the Broken Heart Cliff.

He spent the next few days pacing around. He hadn’t even slept during the last two days. Today was the seventh day of the third month. He stayed close to the Broken Heart Cliff, and never left even a half-step. He waited from morning till noon, from noon till late afternoon. Every time a breeze came, or a flower or a leaf fell down, his heart jumped. He would leap up and look everywhere. Where was Xiao Longnu?

Ever since he talked to Huang Yaoshi, Yang Guo had realized that the ‘Divine Nun of the South Sea’ [Nan Hai Shen Ni] of the ‘Great Wisdom Island’ [Da Zhi Dao]’ existed only in Huang  Rong’s  imagination. However, looking at the letter his hope was rekindled. He recognized his wife’s handwriting, and he was hoping Xiao Longnu would eventually show up.

The sun was slowly sinking beyond the mountains in the west. Yang Guo’s heart was sinking too. When the sun was half-way down the mountain, he cried. He quickly ran toward higher ground. There he saw the full circle of the sun, and he felt relieved. When the sun was completely set, the day would be over …

Though Yang Guo had climbed to the highest peak, the sun still slowly moved downward, looking like it was being swallowed by the earth. After a while he couldn’t see anything but the empty world and the cold breeze that came with the night. He stood silently for about an hour. Afterward the moon slowly rose until it was high above him. He still stood there, unmoving … like a carved stone statue. Slowly the night was spent but Xiao Longnu was still nowhere to be seen.

Very soon it was dawn. The sun rose again. Another day had begun. The birds were starting to sing, the gentle morning breeze brought the sweet fragrance of the flowers around him. It was a beautiful spring morning. But Yang Guo was oblivious, his heart frozen. He heard a  voice  in  his  head,  “You  fool!  She passed away sixteen years ago. She knew she was injured beyond help. She knew you wouldn’t want to live alone. So she killed herself and tricked you into waiting for sixteen years. You stupid fool, she loved you dearly; how would you not know her intention all this time?”

Like a dead man, Yang Guo slowly walked down the peak. He had not had any food nor drink for more than 24 hours. His mouth was dry. He went to a small creek, kneeled down to drink some water. When he saw his reflection in the water, he saw the hair on the side of his head had turned white. He was only thirty-six years old, at the prime of his years. It was untimely for him to have white hair. He also saw his face was dirty. He almost couldn’t recognize himself. He pulled away three strands of his hair; two of the three had turned white.

Yang Guo was very miserable. A poem came into his mind, ‘For ten years life and death are boundless, immeasurable, unforgettable. Lonely graves  a  thousand  li  apart,  unspeakable  desolation.  Unfulfilled desire to meet, slowly turns to dust. The hair on the temples white as frost.’ It was the lamentation of Su Dongpo. Yang Guo spent most of his life learning martial arts; his literary skill was limited. Occasionally he would stop by a small wine shop in Jiangnan where he saw this poem hanging on the wall. He felt this poem carried a deep feeling similar to his own; so oftentimes he would read it aloud and unintentionally memorized the poem. He said in his heart, “He thought a ten-year separation was boundless, I have been parted with Long’er for sixteen years. He still had his  lonely  grave,  he  knew  where  his  beloved  wife’s bones were buried; yet I don’t even know where my wife’s bones are buried.” And then his mind drifted to the second half of that poem, the part where the writer remembered his deceased wife in his dreams at night, ‘In a quiet night a dream came flooding back. A small window of a country home, showing beautiful hair adornments. Face to face yet invisible, only a thousand drops of tears! Year after year dealing with a broken heart. Bright moonlit night, on a small hill nearby.’ He couldn’t help but drowning in sorrows. “I … I have not slept for three whole days and nights … certainly not a single dream would come to me,” he said to himself.

Suddenly he jumped up and ran toward the Broken Heart Cliff. He stood in front of the carved letters, and loudly shouted, “Sixteen years later, meet at this place, the love between husband and wife is profoundly deep, never fail this promise.’ Xiao Longnu! Xiao Longnu! This is your own handwriting. Why didn’t you keep your promise?”

His voice was very loud, like a lion or a tiger’s roar; it echoed from the surrounding mountains, “Why didn’t you keep your promise? Why didn’t you keep your promise?…you keep your promise?…keep your promise?”

Yang Guo had always had a strong character, but this time he was deeply downhearted.

“If Long’Er died sixteen years ago, my life this past sixteen years was in vain,” he thought. He looked into the gorge below the Broken Heart Cliff. A thick fog always covered the bottom all year long. He was never able to penetrate the fog to see the bottom of the gorge. When he threw the half-pill away it took a while for the pill to reach the bottom. He lifted up his head and called very loudly, so that the Dragon Lady Flowers around him were blown away. Then he softly said, “You disappeared without any trace. I have looked for you everywhere, yet there is no sign of you. I just realized it today, that you must have jumped down into this bottomless gorge! You have been there for sixteen years, weren’t you afraid you would be lonely?”

Like a vision he could see clearly in his mind: Xiao Longnu – her white dress gently swaying in the wind, came near him. Then he heard  her  voice  seemingly  from  below  him,  “Yang-lang,  Yang-lang,  let  not  your heart be sad. Don’t be sad …!” (Yang-lang means my dear husband.)

Suddenly, Yang Guo jumped down into the bottomless gorge …

o0o

Guo Xiang followed Jinlun Fawang to the Passionless Valley. Their minds and emotions were a world apart. Fawang was a strange man. When he hated someone, he would be like venomous snake or scorpion; but when he liked someone, he could be extremely loving and kind. He was determined to take the girl as his disciple, his successor; therefore, he tended to every single one  of  her  needs.  He  treated  her  like  Guo Xiang was his most beloved daughter. But Guo Xiang maintained  an  aloofness  towards  him.  She continually reminded him how the Long Beard Ghost and the Big Head Ghost died by his hands. She was being difficult with Fawang. Fawang was a highly respected man  even  when  he  was  still  in  Tibet; moreover, he held the Fawang [Imperial Priest] position of the Mongolian Empire now. Even Khubilai – the fourth prince, had always showed the utmost respect for him. Guo Xiang was only a teenage girl, but she kept making derogatory remarks to him. Didn’t she mention that he was inferior to Yang Guo, and that he killed people too easily? Fawang was confounded; he didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Finally, they arrived at the Passionless Valley one day. They were startled by a distant cry, “Why didn’t you keep your promise?” That was Yang Guo’s cry of anguish, anger, desperation, and suffering.

Guo Xiang strained her ears. She thought the voice came from all directions. She was shocked!

“That was Brother Yang!” she shouted. “That was Brother Yang! Let’s go and see!” And she leaped forward, running toward the cliff.

Jinlun Fawang followed not too far behind. He perked up. Didn’t the girl say that he would face his archenemy? From his backpack he took out his five wheels: golden, silver, copper, iron and lead. He held them tight. Yes, he had mastered the tenth level of the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’, but he also remembered that in the past sixteen years, Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu certainly had not wasted their time. Therefore, he did not dare to underestimate them.

When Guo Xiang arrived at the Broken Heart Cliff, she saw Yang Guo standing still with red flowers twirling around him. She was afraid of the gorge. She realized her own level of martial arts and did not dare to come closer. All she could do was call, “Brother Yang, here I am!”

Yang Guo did not respond, he didn’t even seem to hear her. Guo Xiang was confused; she thought the man looked so extraordinary.

“Brother Yang!” she called again. “I still have one of your golden needles! Listen to me, you cannot commit suicide …”

Having said that she ran toward the bridge. But just as she was halfway there, she suddenly saw Yang Guo jump down into the gorge! She was really shocked! Whether it was from her intention to help, or out of her love toward him, she kicked the ground and also jumped down into the gorge ...

Jinlun Fawang was about seven or eight ‘zhang’s [about 21 to 24 meters] behind her. He saw something amiss; he exerted his energy to his feet and flew like an arrow toward her. He wanted to grab her. However, he was still one step behind the girl. Guo Xiang’s body had already plummeted down into the bottomless gorge. Fawang was a truly skilled martial artist, and he had guts! Without hesitation he moved swiftly with the ‘Hanging a Golden Hook’ technique [dao gua jin gou], leaped forward and reached. It was an extremely dangerous move, because he could be falling down the gorge as well. He managed to grab the end of Guo Xiang’s robe, but it ripped and the girl’s body kept falling down into the mist below …

“Ah …!” he sighed. His hand still holding tight a piece of Guo Xiang’s clothes, his eyes stared blankly into the bottomless gorge. He stood there for quite a while until his ears heard someone’s calling, “Hey, Bald Monk! What are you doing up there?” He turned his body around to see who was calling him.

There on the hill in front of him stood six people. The one in front was an old man, but had a ruddy face. He was Zhou Botong. Next to him were three ladies, one of whom he knew as Huang Rong. The other two were Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang. Behind them were an elderly couple, one old monk with white hair and beard; the other was a lady in black. He didn’t know either Reverend Yideng or Yinggu. But he was a third part scared because he remembered Zhou Botong and recalled his high skill. He also knew Huang Rong’s level of martial arts. She was the Eastern Heretic’s daughter and the Northern Beggar’s disciple. He knew his martial arts were comparable to these Central Plains’ experts, yet he was saddened by Guo Xiang’s death. He didn’t have any keenness to fight. Thus he only said, “Miss Guo Xiang has fallen into this gorge …”

Hearing him, the six were very shocked, especially Huang Rong. “Is...is it true?” she asked, her voice quivered.

“Why would I lie to you?” answered Jinlun Fawang. “Isn’t this a piece of her clothing?” Then he waved the piece of cloth in his hand.

Huang Rong stared hard, and she recognized her daughter’s clothes. Her body was trembling, her mouth tightly shut.

Zhou Botong was raging mad. “Stinky Monk!” he barked, “Why did you kill her? Oh, you are so ruthless!” “It wasn’t me,” Fawang answered meekly.

“Why would somebody jump down into the gorge without any reason?” shouted Botong. “You must have pushed her! Or you made her jump!”

Fawang shook his head. “No, I didn’t do either,” he countered, “I wanted to take her as my disciple, I wanted to make her my successor! Why would I do her any harm …?”

“Phooey!” Botong spat. “That was a really nice old fart! Her grandfather is the Old Master Huang! Her father is Guo Jing! Her mother is this little Huang Rong! Which of these three is not superior to you, Stinky Monk? Why in the world would she take you as her master and inherit your stinky skills? Even if I, the Old Urchin, have mastered only some ‘Three Legged Cat’ techniques, those techniques are far superior to your junk copper and rusty iron wheels!”

They were quite a distance apart, but the old man’s spit had reached Fawang, forcing him to elude it. That spit shot past like a bullet. Fawang was very impressed.

Botong was delighted with Fawang’s silence. He shouted again, “Didn’t she refuse to take you as her master? Weren’t you determined to take her as your disciple? Yes or no?”

Fawang nodded his head. How could he answer otherwise?

“There! You see?” Botong shouted again, “You pushed her into the gorge!”

Fawang was startled, and then he heaved a sigh. “I didn’t push her,” he said, “I don’t even know why she wanted to kill herself …”

Huang Rong meanwhile, was able to calm herself. She gritted her teeth, lifted up her staff and ran toward Jinlun Fawang. She surrounded the monk with ‘sealing’ techniques. Her staff floated around Fawang’s body, surrounding him from every direction. Huang Rong was driven by anger at her daughter’s death, her attacks were deadly. Although Fawang’s martial arts skill was higher than Huang Rong’s, the stick technique was exquisite; he did not dare to parry the attacks head-on. Moreover, Botong was standing by, ready to assist Huang Rong. To make matters worse, they were fighting on very narrow ground. Fawang stepped about three feet back, then he kicked his left foot and with a loud whistling sound he jumped over Huang Rong’s head.

Huang Rong attacked upward, but her stick was parried by Fawang’s silver wheel. Both weapons collided with a loud noise. After taking a deep breath Huang Rong turned around only to see Zhou Botong had started to fight the monk.

Fawang put his wheels back into his bag. It was because Zhou Botong was barehanded. As a sect leader, he must maintain his pride. The opponent was barehanded; he couldn’t wield a weapon.

Huang Rong ran back and as soon as he was within reach, she thrust her stick for another attack.

After mastering the tenth level of the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity’, this would be the first time Fawang had an opportunity to test out this new skill against other experts. He saw Zhou Botong raise his fists and attack, so he too raised his fists wanting to fight Zhou Botong's fists head on. Before they actually exchanged blows, Zhou Botong could hear a series of light popping sounds coming from Fawang's hands.

Zhou Botong was startled and did not dare to receive the blow straight on. Zhou Botong bent his elbow a bit and used his ‘Vacant Fists’ skill.

The  blow  by  Fawang  had  as  much  power  as  1000  jin-(1  jin  is  1/2  kilogram/1lb).  One  could  not  say  it  was comparable to the strength of dragons or elephants but it was impossible  for  mere  flesh  and  bone  to receive such a blow. But when he intercepted the fist of Zhou Botong, it felt empty and vacant like there was no strength in it at all. He was somewhat shocked and used his left palm to strike out again.

Zhou Botong felt that his opponent's power was incredible; he had never experienced something like this before. Zhou Botong loved martial arts and whenever he met someone who had a special skill he would challenge that individual to a duel. He had encountered numerous martial artists in his life; but even he had never heard of, or seen, such strong power as  released  by  Fawang.  He  did  not  know  what  skill Fawang used, so he used his seventy-two stance ‘Vacant Fists’ to battle him. He used void to intercept solid and nothingness to block solidity. By doing so, he rendered the awesome power of Fawang useless; but it was also impossible for him to wound his adversary.

Fawang had attacked with several stances now, yet it seems his stances could not even tickle his opponent. He became frustrated that his dexterity, which he trained for many years, had not helped him to gain the upper hand.

At this point he noticed a whooshing wind from behind; it was Huang Rong who used her bamboo stick to attack his ‘ling tai’ [soul platform] accupoint. He raised his hand to block that attack and with one blow he had broken the bamboo stick into two halves. The remaining energy released by that blow sent the dust flying upwards and grit to surge around.

Huang Rong was stunned and leapt aside, she thought, "This awful monk was quite formidable sixteen years ago, but now he seems to be even more powerful. That palm of his was both strange and incredible, what kind of martial arts could that be?"

Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang saw that Huang Rong was in an unfavorable situation, they both attacked Fawang from two sides. One was using a jade flute and the other a sword. Huang Rong called out, "Be careful!" As soon as she finished, there were two cracking sounds. Both flute and sword were broken.

Fawang was saddened by the tragic death of Guo Xiang; he had no intentions of harming anyone else now. He yelled, "Out of my way!" And he did not pursue Lu Wushuang and Cheng Ying.

Suddenly a black figure appeared and Yinggu was standing next to him and had started to attack him; Fawang moved out his palm wanting to strike her on the waist. Yinggu's martial arts skill was inferior to Huang Rong’s, but she was trained in the ‘Loach Maneuvers’ [ni qiu gong]; therefore, she was very good at evading and dodging. When she noticed an incredible force coming towards her, she made two turns and three shuns and cleverly avoided that blow. Fawang did not know that her martial arts had not yet reached the level of a first rate martial arts expert, but somehow she strangely managed to avoid two of his fist attacks. He was quite shocked to see this; furthermore he felt that his incredible skill was unable to overcome the two opponents now. He was becoming frightened and did not want to engage in any further combat. He quickly moved away from Yinggu. Yinggu had put in everything she had to evade those two blows and was happy to see Fawang turning away from her. She did not dare attack again. Zhou Botong yelled, "Don't run!" and he gave chase.

Fawang was about to turn around to parry any attack that came his way; but then he heard a light sound coming towards him. A luxuriant but gentle energy force was surging towards his face. Reverend Yideng had used his renowned “Solitary Yang Finger” to block Jinlun Fawang. Fawang had not considered this monk to be an expert; little did he realize that the energy released from his index finger was that powerful. Reverend Yideng's level of the “Solitary Yang Finger” had reached the level of ultimate proficiency and perfection, the divine energy released was pure, gentle but also abundant and forceful; impossible to block.

Fawang was shocked and moved aside to avoid that blast; he immediately returned with a palm attack. Reverend Yideng saw that his palm was extremely fierce and aggressive and did not dare to block it; he glided away a few steps.

One was an enlightened, eminent Buddhist monk from the south; the other was an extraordinary Buddhist virtuoso from the west; each had just exchanged one stance and did not dare to underestimate his adversary.

Zhou Botong enjoyed his one-on-one duel with the Fawang, but when Reverend Yideng joined the battle he felt it was uninteresting. So he stood aside and observed the battle.

At first there was only one meter or so in between Reverend Yideng and Fawang; but soon, after dodging palm blasts and evading finger fire, the gap between them gradually became wider. They were now standing about four meters apart from each other and used their internal strengths to battle each other from afar.

Huang Rong was observing from the side and saw that the condensation emitted from Reverend Yideng’s head was becoming denser and denser. She knew that he kept gathering his internal power and feared that, because of his old age, he would not be able to withstand Fawang.

She was devastated by the death of her beloved daughter and wished to step in and help but knew the two of them were battling each other with internal energy and could not intervene now. She did not know what to do at this point, and then she suddenly heard her eagles shrieking. She whistled to them and pointed at Fawang.

The pair of white eagles called loudly and dove towards the head of Fawang. If it was the Divine Eagle of Yang Guo, Fawang might be a bit afraid. Even though these two white eagles were grand, they were still ordinary birds, Fawang was not afraid of mere birds. He was still battling Reverend Yideng with everything he had and could not divert his attention to something else. Suddenly a pair of white eagles dove towards him; he could only use his left palm to strike out at the eagles. Two forceful palm energies surged towards the eagles. The eagles could not cope with such force and immediately flew up higher. Nonetheless because of this diversion Reverend Yideng immediately gained the upper hand. Fawang struck out a few times with his left palm bringing the battle to a draw again.

The eagles heard the repeated commands from Huang Rong, but their enemy's power was too strong and could only resort to creating a diversion. They would cry out loudly and make diving attacks at Fawang, but when they were a few centimeters away from him they would withdraw the attacks. They could avoid his palms but they could not injure him. They only managed to disturb the concentration of Fawang.

When experts are in battle, their concentration must be at its peak. That was the only way their internal strengths could be fully utilized. The palm energies released by Fawang were superior to Reverend Yideng’s but when it came to self cultivation he was very much inferior to the Reverend. Furthermore he was intensely saddened by the lost of Guo Xiang, which affected his state of mind and now the eagles kept pestering him adding more frustration to his spirits.

Because of his frustration, his palm energies were affected. Reverend Yideng smiled and made a step forward. Huang Rong saw Reverend Yideng advancing; she raised her voice and called out, "Guo Jing, Yang Guo! You're here too? Let us capture him together!"

Guo Jing was her husband; she would never call out his full name, but her  intention  was  to  frighten Fawang. If she called out ‘Brother Jing’, Fawang would probably think ‘Who is that?’ And the effect of her trick would not be so effective.

Her trick worked and Fawang panicked when he heard the names Guo Jing and Yang Guo; he thought, "Those two experts are here too. I will not live to see another day."

At this point, Reverend Yideng made half a step forward again. In mid-air the eagles saw an advantage and the female eagle screeched and dove towards the face of Fawang. Her claws were aimed for his eyes. Fawang cursed, “Hellish bird!" and raised his left palm to hit the eagle.

The female eagle broke off her attack when she was about four meters away from Fawang, it was only meant to be another diversion. The male eagle silently came in from the side and when Fawang noticed, his right claw had almost grabbed his baldhead. Fawang was both angry and shocked; he whisked his palm hitting the eagle on its breast. By this time the male eagle had seized Fawang’s Buddhist hat and was flying away. The whisked palm of Fawang was incredible and the eagle could not withstand it. The male eagle made somersault in mid-air and fell into the deep gorge. Huang Rong, Cheng Ying, Lu Wushuang and Yinggu called out with shock.

Zhou Botong became angry and yelled, "Damn monk! The Old Urchin will disregard Wulin traditions today and fight you too." He raised his fist and attacked Fawang from the back.

The female eagle heard the shriek of the male eagle and did not see it flying up from the gorge; she too dove towards the chasm and did not fly back up immediately.

Fawang was attacked from both sides and was afraid now. Although he had high martial arts skills, how could he withstand the combined attacks of two great martial arts masters? He lost his appetite for the fight and took out his golden and silver wheels to block the ‘Solitary Yang Finger’ and ‘Vacant Fists’. He leaned to the left and leapt up towards the left and he gained access to the plains area of the valley. Zhou Botong yelled and gave chase.

Fawang had gone through a lot to escape and was running as fast as possible; he knew if he was detained by Zhou Botong, he would have to fight at least another few hundred stances to determine a victor. Furthermore, if the old monk took advantage of the situation, he would surely perish here in this valley. Ahead was a thick forest and he was running towards it, when suddenly a light sound was heading towards him; it was a small stone.

He was still a hundred paces or so away from the forest, but he did not know who shot that little stone towards him. The energy was incredible, although it was only a small stone the whooshing sound emitted by it was very loud. It was aimed directly at his face. Fawang raised his silver wheel and blocked the stone. It broke into dozens small pieces and scattered around; but two of them hit him on the face. He was not injured, but he certainly felt the pain.

He thought, "That small rock was shot from afar and shook my wheel. This person's internal strength is not inferior to the Old Urchin and the old monk, how is it possible that another such expert exists?"

While he was stunned for a minute, an old man in a long green robe walked out of the forest. He looked very suave and distinguished. Zhou Botong was happy to see him and shouted, "Old Heretic Huang! This damn monk is responsible for the death of your granddaughter. Let us capture him together."

The distinguished old man was the Master of the Peach Blossom Island, Huang Yaoshi. After he and Yang Guo went their separate ways he decided to wander around in the north. One particular day he saw the two white eagles at a small village; he knew either his daughter or grandchildren were around. So he decided to follow them, but he did not wish to be seen by his daughter and followed them from afar. When he saw that both Reverend Yideng and Zhou Botong could not defeat this monk, he was quite surprised. He thought that this monk was a worthy adversary and decided to intervene as well.

Jinlun Fawang struck his wheels together creating a loud ‘dang’ sound, similar to the cry of a dragon. He said, "I take it you are the Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi?"

Huang Yaoshi nodded and said, "Yes, I am, Reverend. What can I do for you?"

Fawang said, "Even back in Tibet we have heard that only the Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity were all-powerful in the Central Plains. It pleases me to see that you live up to your reputation. I would like to ask where the other four great masters are."

Huang Yaoshi replied, "The Central Divinity, Northern Beggar and Western Poison have passed away many years ago. This Reverend Yideng here is the Southern Emperor and Brother Zhou is the younger martial arts brother of the Central Divinity."

Zhou Botong came fast. He said, "If my martial arts brother was still alive, would you be able to withstand even ten of his stances?"

Reverend Yideng also came fast. Together with the Eastern Heretic, they formed a triangle surrounding Fawang. Fawang looked at Yideng; then at Botong; and finally at the Eastern Heretic. He sighed and threw his five wheels to the ground.

“If it were a one-on-one combat, I wouldn’t budge a single inch to any one of you,” he said wryly.

“You are right!” answered Zhou Botong, “But right now we are not having a  competition on top of  Mount Hua to fight over the title ‘The Number One Valiant Man under the Heaven’! Who would want to fight you one-on-one? Hey, Stinky Monk, you have done too many wicked deeds. You decide your own fate!”

“I have seen two out of the top five experts of the central plains,” said Fawang. “If I could die by your hands, I would not have any regrets. Only my highest skill: the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’ will not have an heir. I am the last one …”

Having finished his speech he lifted up his hand to smash his own head. Zhou Botong was startled to hear the name ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’, without hesitation he jumped forward and blocked the monk’s hand. “Hold on!” he shouted.

“I, the old monk, can be killed, but not insulted!” said Fawang valiantly. “What do you want?”

“You regret the ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’ would not have any heirs,” he said, “Why don’t you teach it to me, then you kill yourself afterward. That way it wouldn’t be lost, would it?”

Before Fawang answered, they heard flapping wings followed by the female eagle flying up from the gorge, her mate on her back. Both birds were wet, which indicated water at the bottom of the chasm; maybe a well or a creek. The male eagle’s feathers were in disarray, but he was still breathing. His claws still held tightly Jinlun Fawang’s Buddhist cap.

As soon as the female eagle placed her mate on the ground, she flew back into the gorge. After a while she reappeared with Guo Xiang on her back.

Huang Rong was shocked, but happy. “Xiang’er! Xiang’er!” she called, and ran toward the bird. She took Guo Xiang off the bird’s back.

Fawang stood astounded to see Guo Xiang was all right. Zhou Botong still held his hand, but he had also seen what the female eagle had done. He looked at Reverend Yideng on his right and Huang Yaoshi on his left, made faces to them and winked.

Eastern Heretic and Southern Emperor saw his expression and immediately moved in unison. As a result, Fawang’s right side and left breast were struck by their powerful fingers. It didn’t matter if Fawang was a tough man, because his attackers were experts. One was ‘Divine  Flicking  Finger’  [Tan  Zi  Shen  Tong] expert, while the other was ‘Solitary Yang Finger’ [Yi Yang Zi] expert. The Mongolian monk uttered an ‘unh’ sound and staggered. Zhou Botong added a punch to the ‘zhi yang’ [positive end] accupoint on his back, he laughed and said, “Go down!” Fawang’s knees gave out and he fell, sitting down on the ground.

The three experts saw this and were secretly impressed. “This monk is really strong, he was hit three times, yet he did not collapse to the ground, he only sat down …”

Afterward the three of them came to Guo Xiang. They were trying to comfort her.

“Mother, he’s down there …” said the girl to her mother, “He’s down there … go help him, please …” Guo Xiang only managed to utter those words before she fainted. Yideng immediately checked her pulse. “She is all right!” he said, “She is just in shock.” Then he slowly massaged the girl’s wrist. Not too long after, Guo Xiang slowly regained her consciousness.

“Where is Big Brother?” she asked. “Is he up here?”

“Is Yang Guo in the gorge below?” asked Huang Rong. Guo Xiang nodded. “He is!” she said, lowering her head; and then added in her heart, “If he is not down there, why would I jump down?”

“Is there any water down there?” Huang Rong asked again, seeing her daughter’s wet clothes. Guo Xiang nodded her head, and then closed her eyes. She was still too weak to say anything, only her finger pointed to the gorge.

“Yang Guo is down there, only the eagle can help him,” said Huang Rong. Then she whistled, calling her bird, but strangely after she had whistled several times the bird did not respond. Huang Rong felt strange; the birds have always obeyed her commands for dozens of years. Why didn’t it respond this time? It had never happened before. Once again she whistled, loud and long.

Suddenly the bird flew up high into the clouds. She flew in circles emanating a sad cry. And then she dove down very fast. Huang Rong was shocked. “Not good!” she cried in her heart. Then she called, “Hey, Eagle!”

Her calling was in vain; the bird continued diving down and smashed onto a mountain rock. Her head was smashed, her wings broken, she died instantly.

Everybody was stunned. They ran toward the birds only to find the male eagle’s body was cold; he too was dead. No wonder his mate was disconsolate and wanted to die too. They all uttered a long sad sigh.

Huang Rong was the most upset; those two birds were her companions since she and the birds were young. She shed tears involuntarily.

Observing all this, Li Mochou’s song echoed in Lu Wushuang’s mind:

‘O mortals, what is love? That binds beyond life on earth?

To all corners, in pair we fly... braving summer and winter, by and by...

Union is bliss, parting is woe, agony is boundless, for a lovelorn soul, sweetheart... Give me word, trail of clouds drifting forward...

And mountains capped with snow, whither shall my lonesome shadow go?’

When she was a young girl, Lu Wushuang followed her master – Li Mochou, everywhere. Oftentimes, in the dead of the night, when she thought she was dreaming, she heard her master sing this song. She did not know the true meaning of love then, but now she saw it with her own eyes. She thought, “If the female eagle were still alive, she would be flying alone through the clouds and over snow-capped mountains. She was alone, her shadow solitary; how could she live any longer?” Without her realizing it, tears welled up her eyes.

“Shi Fu, Shi Jie,” said Cheng Ying. “Brother Yang is inside the gorge below, how can we rescue him?”

Huang Rong wiped her tears. “Xiang’er, tell me the exact condition of the gorge’s bottom,” she asked, “What was happening to you?”

Guo Xiang was already feeling better. “As soon as I plummeted down into the gorge, I hit the water at the bottom,” she answered, “I was shocked and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls. I don’t know how, but I was immediately pushed back up to the surface. And then Big Brother, Yang Da Ge, pulled my hair, he lifted me up …”

Hearing this Huang Rong was relieved. “Was there a big rock or something else where you could set your feet on?” she asked.

“There was a big tree right next to the water.” “Hmm …” said her mother. “Why did you fall down?”

“That was also the first question Brother Yang asked me when he pulled me up,” answered the girl. “I took my golden needle out, I gave it to him and I said, ‘I come to ask you to take care of yourself, don’t be shortsighted’. He looked at me without blinking. Not too long after the male eagle fell into the water, followed by his mate. The female eagle took her mate up, then she came back to rescue me. Brother Yang told me to go up, he didn’t say anything else. He lifted me up on the eagle’s back. Mother, tell the bird to go back down and rescue Brother Yang …”

Huang Rong didn’t want to tell her daughter that the birds were dead. She took off her coat and wrapped it around her daughter’s body.

“I believe Yang Guo is not in grave danger right now,” she said, turning to her companions, “Let us make a long rope to rescue him.”

That was a great idea. Everybody scattered to gather tree bark and braided it into a rope.

All except for Jinlun Fawang – whose accupoints were sealed, and Guo Xiang – who was too tired, worked hard. Cheng Ying, Lu Wushuang and Yinggu braided, while Yideng, Zhou Botong, Huang Yaoshi and Huang Rong gathered tree bark. They were not skilled at making rope; therefore, when the sky darkened all they had was a little over a hundred ‘zhang’s [around 300 meters] of rope.

Even though she felt the rope was not long enough, Cheng Ying put it into the gorge anyway. She tied one end to a rock and the other end to a tree stump and threw the rock into the gorge. The rope slid down, penetrating the thick fog below and vanished from their sight.

These seven people worked hard all night long without taking any rest. The next morning Guo Xiang was strong enough to help. Huang Rong asked her how she got captured by Fawang to help pass the time.

The rope was getting longer and longer. They did not hear anything from Yang Guo down below. Huang Yaoshi was restless; he took out his jade flute and played a song. The sound of the flute echoed and flowed down into the gorge. Usually, as soon as Yang Guo heard the flute, he would whistle in response. When the song ended the gorge was still quiet, still no response, and only a thin mist rising up.

Huang Rong thought hard. She chopped a piece of wood, and carved this letter: “Are you all right? Please respond.” Then she threw the wood into the ravine.

They waited some more, still nothing … They looked at each other with anxiety in their eyes.

“Even though this gorge is deep, I believe our rope has reached its bottom,” said Cheng Ying. “Let me go down and take a look.”

“Let me!” Zhou Botong did not wait for an answer. Immediately he grabbed the end of the rope and climbed down, agile as a monkey, and disappeared into the fog below. About an hour later he reappeared, his hair and beard was covered with moss. He shook his head.

“Not a single shadow or footprint was there, let alone Yang Guo? No ‘niu guo’ [a live ox], no ‘ma guo’ [a live horse] either [play on words: ‘guo’ of ‘Yang Guo’ also means ‘live’],” he said. They looked at Guo Xiang and were perplexed.

Guo Xiang was almost crying, “I am sure Brother Yang was down there, where could he go?” said the girl. “He was sitting next to the big tree by the water.”

Cheng Ying didn’t say anything; she grabbed the rope and start climbing down. Lu Wushuang followed suit. And then Yinggu, Zhou Botong, Huang Yaoshi and Yideng did the same. They were worried about Yang Guo, but they were also curious.

“You have not recovered Xiang’er, don’t come down,” Huang Rong counseled her daughter. “Don’t make your mother worry about you. If your Brother Yang is down there, we certainly will rescue him, won’t we?”

Guo Xiang was anxious, but she agreed with her mother. Tears welled up in her eyes.

Huang Rong looked at Jinlun Fawang, she thought, “He has been sealed for more than twelve hours. He is highly skilled, perhaps he has managed to unseal some of his accupoints …” Thus she came to him and sealed some more of his accupoints: ‘ling tai’ [soul platform] on his back, ‘ju que’ [gigantic imperial city] just below his chest, ‘qing ling yuan’ [clear and cold abyss] on his two arms. Only then did she slide down the rope.

Huang Rong held the rope loosely and let her body fall down fast; then tightened her grip to slow her fall. She did that several times and a short while later arrived at the bottom, and sure enough, she saw a body of water like a pond or a spring. Huang Yaoshi and the others were standing on the shore. She looked around but there was no Yang Guo. On her left she saw several big trees, where about thirty beehives were hung. The Jade Bees were flying around.

“Brother Zhou, could you catch a bee for us to look at, please?” she said to the Old Urchin. “Let’s see if it has characters on its wings.” Botong complied, he caught a bee. “No characters here,” he said.

Huang Rong looked around. All she could see were rock walls a few hundred meters high. There was no way out. There were only those few peculiar looking trees; she didn’t know what kind of trees they were. She looked up, and all she could see was thick fog covering the gorge, she couldn’t even see the sun. She was thinking hard when suddenly Botong shouted, “Here! This one has characters on it.”

Madam Guo quickly looked, and sure enough, she saw the same letters on this one, ‘I am at the Passionless Valley’s bottom’. This made her think some more, she believed the answer must be in the water below. Among the seven people, her water skill was the best. She made up her mind. She tucked her clothes up, took a ‘Nine Flower Jade Dew Pill’, put it in her mouth to repel any venomous bugs or snake bites, and jumped into the water.

The deeper Huang Rong dived, the colder the water temperature was. She felt the cold creeping into her bones. She opened her eyes underwater, but all she could see was the deep bluish green water. The water felt like ice. She was puzzled, but determined to continue her investigation. She went to the surface for another deep breath, and dived again. She went further this time, and she felt a strong buoyancy force pushing her back up. The deeper she went, the stronger the force was. She exerted her energy but it was no use, she could not reach the bottom no matter what. Except for the cold temperature, the water did not show anything special anyway. Therefore, she went back to the surface in defeat.

All could see she was cold; her lips were blue and her hair white from the frost. They were astonished. Cheng Ying and Lu Wushuang promptly gathered sticks and lit a fire for Huang Rong to warm herself up.

In the meantime Guo Xiang was waiting above, she thought very hard, “Why wouldn’t Brother Yang come up? Did my grandfather and mother persuade him to come? What was the real reason he tried to kill himself? Was it because Xiao Longnu had passed away and they wouldn’t see each other anymore?”

While she was lost in thought, she heard Jinlun Fawang groaned, “Aiyo! Aiyo!” “You asked for it!” said Guo Xiang, “Who told you to kill so easily? Hmm...”

Jinlun Fawang did not reply, but he kept making groaning noises while his eyes looking at her begging for mercy. By nature Guo Xiang was kindhearted. She couldn’t take it anymore. “Are you really sick?” she asked.

“Your mother has sealed [ling tai] accupoint on my back and [ju que] below my chest. Those sealed accupoints made me suffer like a million ants were biting me,” the monk answered, “It is not only so painful but itchy as well. Why didn’t your mother seal my ‘shan zhong’ [heart center] and ‘yu zhen’ [jade pillow] accupoints?”

Guo Xiang was startled. She understood from learning with her mother, that [shan zhong] and [yu zhen] were two of the vital accupoints. A little injury on these two could cause death. “My mother does not wish for your death,” she said. “You do not thank her, but keep whining incessantly!”

Jinlun Fawang showed a proud look. “If she sealed my [shan zhong] and [yu zhen], she would make my back and chest numb,” he said, “She would cause me less pain. I have trained to this high level; I wouldn’t be injured that easily. Could it be that she really wishes for my death?”

Guo Xiang did not believe him. “Don’t you lie to me!” She countered. “Mother said that if [shan zhong] and [yu zhen] were sealed, you would certainly die! You are only experiencing itchiness and a bit of pain. Take heart. My mother and the others will be here shortly.”

Jinlun Fawang did not respond. “Miss Guo,” a little later he asked, “How would you say my treatment of you was along the way?”

“Not a single complaint,” answered Guo Xiang. “But you have killed the Long Beard Ghost and the Big Head Ghost. You have also caused the death of my two eagles. Even if your treatment of me was a lot better, I still cannot accept what you have done.”

“Very well!” shouted the monk, “An eye for an eye! You kill me to avenge the death of your friends and your birds! But remember that I have treated you well along the way; how would you repay me for that?”

“You tell me how I can repay you.”

“You have to seal my [shan zhong] and [yu zhen],” answered the monk. “That way you would lessen my suffering. That way you repay my kindness.”

Guo Xiang shook her head. “You want me to kill you?” she asked, “I will not do that.”

“But I am a man as tough as a mountain!” Fawang insisted, “Even if you seal those accupoints, I will not easily die. Later when your mother is here, I will beg for her mercy. Do you really think I’d like to die?”

Seeing his pitiful condition, Guo Xiang pondered his words. “Very well,” she thought, “I will lessen his suffering.” Then she sealed his [shan zhong] and [yu zhen] accupoints. Fawang immediately felt relieved. “Yes! I feel better,” he said. “Please hit harder.” Guo Xiang complied, she hit harder.

Fawang’s eyebrows twitched, he smiled. He did not show any sign of injury, but his countenance changed from red to white, and from white back to red again.

“OK, please hit even harder now,” he again said. Guo Xiang complied; she hit harder utilizing the technique her parents taught her.

“Good!” finally Fawang shouted. “My chest is not tight anymore! You see, I am not dead, am I?”

Guo Xiang was astonished. “Let me hit your [yu zhen] one more time!” she said. She’d gently hit him then, but she hit him really hard this time.

“Thank you! Thank you!” said Fawang. He immediately closed his eyes. A little while later he suddenly leaped up and said with a loud voice, “OK, let’s go!”

Miss Guo was flabbergasted. “You … you …” she stammered.

Fawang’s left hand flew out and grabbed the girl’s arm. “Let’s  go!”  he  said.  “Jinlun  Fawang’s  skill  is without equal under the heavens. How could I not know all about this rudimentary skill?” As soon as he finished talking, he immediately walked forward, dragging Guo Xiang along.

“Liar! Liar!” Guo Xiang shouted; she regretted her actions and thought, “My knowledge is so shallow, I don’t even know this rudimentary technique existed.” How would she know the ‘tui jing zhuan mai, yi gong huan xue’ [transferring blood flow passage, exchanging accupoints position] was not rudimentary at all? Fawang had trained himself in this difficult technique since the time he was still in Tibet. It was not superior to Ouyang Feng’s technique in which he was able to reverse the blood flow in his whole body; but it was not less strange or less difficult to master. When Guo Xiang hit his [shan zhong] and [yu zhen] accupoints, he secretly transferred that energy to unseal the other accupoints.

They were only a few meters away when Fawang suddenly had an evil thought. He saw the end of the rope tied to a tree stump. He thought that if he cut the rope, Zhou Botong, Yideng, Huang Yaoshi, Huang Rong and the others would die in the gorge, since they would have no other way of coming back up. Therefore, he kicked the ground and leaped toward the tree and grabbed the rope, ready to severe it.

Guo Xiang saw his movement; she was shocked. She knew what he was up to. She could not stay silent. Her arm was still held in the monk’s hand. When her other hand was within reach of the monk’s body, she made her move and hit his ‘yuan ye’ [deep pool liquid] accupoint beneath his ribs.

Jinlun Fawang had underestimated the girl and now he had to suffer the consequence. That hit was right on target. He was stunned and immediately felt half of his body stiffened, his strength gone.

With one pull Guo Xiang was able to free herself. She went behind him and threatened, “I am going to push you down smelly monk! I hope you’ll die!”

Fawang was shocked, but he didn’t show it. He laughed a big laugh. He secretly exerted his internal energy to unseal his accupoint. He said, “How could you hurt me with your meager skill?”

Guo Xiang did not know that her hit actually sealed Fawang’s accupoint and that Fawang’s body was stiff. If she pushed, he would certainly fall down. But she was afraid to repeat her past mistake, that if she touched his body one more time the monk would be able to free himself. Didn’t she hit the monk and in the end Fawang was free? Therefore, instead of pushing him, she jumped down and got away from him. She ran toward the chasm and shouted, “I’d rather die with my mother!” She was going to jump down into the gorge.

Jinlun Fawang was extremely shocked. He breathed in and out deeply, and eventually his sealed accupoint was clear. Abandoning the rope he quickly jumped after the girl.

Guo Xiang kept running between big rocks and among the trees. If she were out on a plain, Fawang would certainly catch up with only two leaps. Right now the monk had to play her game. There were a lot of old trees and big rocks scattered around the Broken Heart Cliff. By running around like this Guo Xiang was able to elude him. It was like they were playing tag. Fawang leaped over the trees and with ‘Wild Duck Descends the Plain [yan luo ping sha] techniques he was able to grab Guo Xiang’s arm once again.

Guo Xiang was shocked; she thought she could get away from him. She struggled in vain; but then she opened her mouth and shouted at the top of her lungs, “Mother!”

Fawang quickly covered her mouth with his free hand. Meanwhile a voice was heard from a distance, it was Lu Wushuang, “Uh, where did little Guo Xiang go?”

“Pity, pity …” Fawang’s heart turned cold. “I have wasted too much time.” He regretted the fact he failed to cut the rope; he was forced to seal the girl’s mute accupoint and took her away as quickly as he could run. He was so confused that he couldn’t think straight. He only heard Lu Wushuang’s voice. If he attacked her, how could Wushuang fight him? It was just that he had suffered a bitter defeat from Zhou Botong, Reverend Yideng and Huang Yaoshi; so when he heard someone was coming he thought everybody had arrived.

Huang Rong and the rest were still at the gorge’s bottom. They could not find any footprint or traces of blood, in case Yang Guo was injured. Finally they decided to go back up and discuss this matter later. Lu Wushuang was the first to go, followed by Cheng Ying and Yinggu. When Huang Rong showed up, she was startled to hear them calling her daughter, “Little Guo Xiang! Little Guo Xiang!  Where  are  you?”  The women were puzzled at seeing neither Guo Xiang nor Jinlun Fawang.

Huang Rong climbed a tall tree to get a good look around. In the meantime Huang Yaoshi together with Reverend Yideng and Zhou Botong arrived. They were perplexed and anxious. They looked around the valley, but could not find anything.

When they reached the valley's entrance, they saw one of Guo Xiang's shoes.

“Shi Jie, don't you worry,” Chen Ying said, “Fawang must have taken Guo Xiang along with him to the south. Guo Xiang left her shoe behind to give us clue. She's just as smart as her mother."

Huang Rong believed Cheng Ying was right. She was relieved since Guo Xiang would not be in any immediate danger. Didn’t Fawang want to take Guo Xiang as his disciple, to inherit his ‘Dragon and Elephant Wisdom Dexterity Technique’?

End of Chapter 38. 
@Chapter 39 – Battle of Xiangyang
The group proceeded south and inquired about Fawang (Golden Wheel Monk) and Guo Xiang along the way. Soon news came from everywhere saying the North and South Mongolian Armies are besieging Xiangyang, engaging the Song soldiers at the foot of the city several times, with both sides suffering many loses. The situation there was grave and urgent. Huang Rong was worried and said, “The Mongols are attacking Xiangyang, we must get there fast. Let’s ignore Xiang’er’s safety temporarily.” The group agreed unanimously.

The elders Huang Yaoshi, Yideng and Zhou Botong did not bother about worldly affairs, but Xiangyang’s fate was extremely important, besides everyone was putting in their best to defend it, so they could not ignore the situation.

They did not meet any delays on their journey and so they reached the outskirts of Xiangyang in a day. They found the battle trumpets sounding continuously and the flags waving, the swords were like a forest and horses were running frantically about. The city was like a speck in the desert as the Mongol Armies surrounded it. When they saw this, they were shocked and dismayed. Huang Rong said, “The enemy is mighty. We must wait till evening before attempting to get in.” They then hid in the nearby forest and apart from Zhou Botong who was smiling mischievously, the rest looked grim.

At the second watch, Huang Rong led the way and charged through the enemy camps. Although their martial arts were powerful, the Mongol camps were vast, one coming after the other. They were only halfway through when the patrols spotted them. The soldiers sounded the alarm and three hundred squads surrounded them. The rest of the camps, however, did not stir and were still calm.

Zhou Botong grabbed two long spears and tried to open a way out while Huang Yaoshi and Yideng held a shield each guarding the rear and blocking the troops. The four women were in the middle and the group pushed their way out anxiously. They were still in the camp and so the enemy did not fire arrows at them for fear of hitting their own horses and losing a valuable war asset. However when they reached the open plains the archers fired relentlessly, causing Zhou Botong, Yideng and the others, to have a hard time fending them off. The seven people moved and fought at the same time but the enemy troop numbers became larger and larger, with dozens of spears piercing towards them. Zhou Botong, Huang Yaoshi and the rest unleashed their mighty palm power and smashed many spears and killed many soldiers. But the Mongols were much superior in numbers and they fought fiercely, forcing the group into a dangerous situation.

Zhou Botong laughed, “Old Heretic Huang, looks like our three old lives are going to be lost here, but you must think of a way to get these four beauties safely out of here.” Yinggu spat, “What rubbish! How can an old woman like me be a beauty? If we are to die, we die together; let’s just save these three beauties.”

Huang Rong was secretly shocked, “The Old Urchin looks like he’s not afraid of the earth or the sky and never says a serious word. Today we’re heavily surrounded and he thinks of sacrificing his life, it looks like this situation is indeed dire!” The enemy gathered together like ants from all directions and apart from fighting to the last man, she also could not think of any way out.

After charging through several more camps Huang Rong saw two large black tents on the left and since she had accompanied Genghis Khan on his western expedition, she knew the tents were used to store the grain. She snatched a torch and dashed to the tents. The soldiers shouted and chased her. She ran forwards quickly and darted into a tent, and set everything on fire. Soon the tents were ablaze and she rushed out and rejoined her party.

The tents contained many flammable objects and the fire caused many small explosions within. Zhou Botong found this interesting and threw his spear aside and snatched two torches and ran around setting everything in sight on fire. He unwittingly set a stable on fire causing the horses to neigh unceasingly, throwing the camp into chaos.

Guo Jing heard some confusion in the camp to the west of the city and he rushed to the city wall. He saw a few people rushing out from a burning camp and knew they were creating trouble for the enemy so he quickly dispatched the Wu brothers with two thousand men to meet the party.

The Wu brothers had not gone a mile when they saw Huang Yaoshi supporting Lu Wushuang and Yideng supporting Zhou Botong. The seven people rode on five horses galloping quickly. The Wu brothers did not go forward to attack the enemy but ordered the men to get into formation, holding the enemy back. They then ordered the flank to come forward and support the party while everyone retreated back into the city.

Guo Jing was waiting at the top of the city wall and saw it was his father-in-law, wife, Reverend Yideng, Zhou Botong and company. He was delighted and quickly went forth to receive them. He saw that Lu Wushuang had been hit by an arrow in the waist; three arrows were lodged in Zhou Botong’s back and his eyebrows were scorched by fire. The two people were badly injured. Cheng Ying and Yinggu also suffered arrow wounds but their condition was not so serious. Yideng and Huang Yaoshi  had  deep  medical knowledge but when they examined Zhou Botong and Lu Wushuang, they frowned and remained silent.

Zhou Botong laughed, “Emperor Duan, don’t fret, this Old Urchin won’t die so easily. You should spend more effort treating that beauty Lu Wushuang.” He had always made monkey faces at Huang Yaoshi but he respected Yideng and was perhaps even fearful of him. Yideng had become a monk many years ago but Zhou Botong still addressed him as ‘Emperor Duan’. Huang Yaoshi and Yideng saw that he had a high tolerance to pain so they smiled and stopped worrying. Lu Wushuang, however, was still unconscious.

The following day at the crack of dawn the war drums were sounded and battle chants shouted. The Mongolians had attacked. The Xiangyang troops acted according  to  Governor  Lu  Wenhuan  and  the Defense General’s orders and defended the four city gates. Guo Jing and Huang Rong ascended the city walls and saw that the Mongol troops were spread across the mountains and plains, seemingly endless. The Mongol armies had attacked Xiangyang many times, but this time the campaign involved the largest military force ever. Fortunately Guo Jing had spent some time in the Mongol armed forces before and was well-versed in their techniques of capturing a city, so he was well-prepared. No matter how the enemy deployed their archers, firearms, battering rams or scaling ladders, the troops were positioned in such a way that they could counter them all. By sundown the Mongols had already lost 1000 troops but they continued to fight fiercely.

Apart from the myriads of soldiers (1 myriad = ten thousand) in Xiangyang, the population amounted to one-hundred thousand. Everyone knew that once this city fell all would be lost. So everybody resolutely defended the city; even the old and weak carried the stones and rocks used to repel the enemy. The city resounded with the fighting sounds and the arrows flew overhead like locusts.

Guo Jing wielded a long sword and commanded the troops at the top of the city wall with Huang Rong by his side. The sky was red with the sunset and the scenery was a sight to behold. However at the foot of the city the enemy soldiers swarmed forward and their faces could be seen. Guo Jing stood his ground at the top exuding a heroic aura and his heart was filled with the deep and sincere love for his wife. On this day the mighty enemy was pounding the city and it was uncertain if they could be driven back again. Huang Rong thought, “Brother Jing and I have been married for 30 years; most of our time was spent in this city. The two of us have been defending against the enemy for  so  long,  even  if  all  our  blood  is splashed on this wall it would not be in vain.” She looked at Guo Jing and noticed that his hair had turned a shade whiter and she thought, “Every time the enemy attacks, Brother Jing will have a few dozen more strands of white hair.”

Suddenly they heard the Mongols call out together, “May Your Majesty live ten thousand years!” The voices resonated throughout the area. A large banner was hoisted and a metal chariot with a green umbrella came forward together with a large entourage. It was the Great Khan Mengke himself coming to lead the battle.

The Mongols saw that their Khan was here personally and their morale was raised by leaps and bounds. The red flag was waved and the soldiers at the foot of the city split into formations of twenty thousand men attacking the north gate. These troops were the Khan’s personal guards and were very highly trained and they were fresh and without battle fatigue. They all wanted to prove themselves to the Khan. Several hundred scaling ladders were placed against the city walls and the troops ascended like ants.

Guo Jing waved his arms, shouting, “Brothers, today we shall let the Khan see the might of the heroes of Great Song!” His shout was generated by his chi and everyone could hear him clearly amidst the din. The Song troops had battled for a day and were getting tired, but when they heard Guo Jing shouting, their weary senses were jerked into attention and they thought, “The Mongols have oppressed us long enough, today we shall show their Khan what we’re made of!” Everyone gave their best to the life and death battle.

The Mongol soldiers’ bodies were piling higher at the foot of the city wall and the troops at the back became mad with rage, stepping on the bodies to assault the city. The Khan’s attendants rode back and forth to relay the orders and deployed troops forward. Dusk was approaching and thousands of torches were lit, throwing so much light that it seemed like day.

When Governor Lu Wenhuan saw this situation, he saw that the city could hardly be defended. He timidly ran up to Guo Jing and Huang Rong stammering, “Hero… Hero Guo, we can’t defend anymore, let’s… let’s leave the city and retreat south!”

Guo Jing sternly said, “How can the Governor say that? Xiangyang exists and we exist; Xiangyang falls and we fall!”

Huang Rong saw that the situation was precarious and if Lu Wenhuan suddenly gave the order to retreat, the troops would be thrown into confusion and Xiangyang would be overrun. She shouted, “If you dare to say anything about retreating I’ll bore three holes through your body!” Lu Wenhuan’s guards came up to block her but she swept across with her leg and the guards fell backwards.

Guo Jing shouted, “Let’s go up and repulse the enemy together! If we don’t fight to the death, how can we consider ourselves true men?” The soldiers all respected Guo Jing; hearing him shout with determination, they agreed and grabbed their weapons, sprinting to the edge of the walls to fight the oncoming enemy troops. General Wang Jian hollered, “We must defend the city tenaciously, the Mongols can’t hold on any more!”

A Mongol officer shouted, “Everyone listen – The Khan has decreed that the first man up the city wall shall be the Lord of Xiangyang!” The Mongol troops cheered and  the  whole  body  of  soldiers  rushed forward without regard for their lives. Meanwhile an officer came forward with a  red  flag  bearing  the decree. Guo Jing grabbed a metal bow and shot an arrow which flashed through the air. The officer was hit and he immediately fell off his horse. The Mongolians called out in surprise and their  morale  was deflated. Before long, another battalion arrived at the foot of the city.

Yelu Qi took a long spear and ran to Guo Jing, saying, “Father- and Mother-in-law, the Mongolians are still not withdrawing, I would like to get out of the city and engage them.”

Guo Jing said, “Yes! Take four thousand soldiers with you. But be careful.” Yelu Qi turned around and descended from the wall. Before long the battle drums were sounded and Yelu Qi together with one thousand Beggar Clan members and three thousand soldiers charged out of the city in full battle gear.

At the north gate the Mongol troops were in a desperate situation; when they saw the oncoming Song troops charging towards them, they fled immediately. Yelu Qi’s regiment pursued them. Suddenly the Mongolian troops fired three canon shots and twenty thousand soldiers surged forward and surrounded Yelu Qi’s four thousand troops.

The three thousand soldiers had good training and good martial arts and were very brave. Together with the one thousand Beggar Clan members, they were not intimidated even though they were surrounded. Guo Jing, Huang Rong, Lu Wenhuan and Wang Jian were watching the ongoing battle below but saw that the Song battalion’s formation was still orderly even though they were fighting one against five. In the darkness the weapons flashed under the torches’ light and it seemed like a hundred thousand silver ants dancing. It was a bloody battle!

The Mongol armies were now using twenty thousand troops to hold down Yelu Qi’s four thousand troops and another ten thousand soldiers to scale the city wall.

Guo Jing saw that Yelu Qi’s troops were trapped outside the city and the Mongolians were sending even more reinforcements. Then he ordered the Wu brothers to leave a gap and allow the Mongolians to get onto the city walls. The thousands of Mongol soldiers at the foot of the city thought that they had broken the defenses and they cheered.

Lu Wenhuan’s face turned pale and he trembled uncontrollably. He was saying, “Hero Guo, How… how… how can this be good? We should… should…”

Guo Jing did not reply and saw that about five thousand troops had already ascended the city wall then he waved his black command flag. The drums sounded and Zhu Ziliu and Wu Santong suddenly appeared and ambushed the enemy, closing the gap and stopping the enemy’s invasion. The five thousand soldiers were trapped inside the city.

At this time some of the Song soldiers were trapped outside the city while the Mongol soldiers were trapped inside. Fierce fighting was still going on at the east, west and south gates and the soldiers were shouting unceasingly.

The Khan was sitting atop a small hill directing the battle himself, and beside him were more than two hundred battle drums, producing deafening noise. A man could hardly hear himself over the din. The dead and the injured were lying everywhere and the blood covered the armour and weapons. The Khan had experienced many battles and conquered many lands even into Europe; many armies flee on sighting his armies. This time, however, he witnessed a crushing setback and he was surprised, thinking, “Everyone says the Southerners are weak and useless, but these people are no weaker than my armies!”

It was the third watch now and the moon and stars were shining brightly, illuminating the Earth. All was calm and still except the thousands of people fighting to the death for this city.

They fought late into the night and the losses on both sides were heavy and victory was still undecided. The Song soldiers occupied an advantageous position while the Mongols were superior in manpower.

Suddenly the soldiers at the front called out and a squad of Song soldiers charged out and rushed to the small hill. The Khan’s personal guards all fired a volley of arrows to hinder them. Mengke looked down and saw a Song general carrying two spears and riding a large horse moving swiftly on the battlefield and could not be blocked. The arrows flew towards him like torrents of rain but he blocked all of them. Mengke waved his left hand and the drumming stopped. He asked around, “This person is so brave and fierce, who is he?”

A white-haired general said, “Your Majesty, that person is Guo Jing. Years ago Genghis Khan made him the Golden Knife Prince Consort (Jing Dao Fu Ma) and he greatly contributed to the western campaign.”

Mengke called out in dismay. “Ah, so it’s him! He really lives up to his reputation!”

Mengke’s generals, hearing him praise Guo Jing so highly, were angered. Four of them yelled out, grabbed their weapons and charged towards him.

Guo Jing saw that these four people were tall and their horses large. Two of them wore white head gear and the other two wore red head gear. Their voices were like rumbling thunder and their horses were swiftly closing in on him. He raised a spear and chopped down, cutting the saber of one of the generals into two and pierced him in the chest with the other spear. Another two thrust out their spears and tried to block Guo Jing’s spears. The last general thrust his Snake Spear towards Guo Jing’s abdomen. All four of them were using long weapons and he could not turn in time to face the last spear, so he released his spears and avoided the spear thrust at his abdomen. He then grabbed the other two generals’ spears and snatched them away like a bolt of lightning. The two generals were well known warriors of the Mongolian armies but how could they resist Guo Jing’s extraordinary strength? They felt their arms go numb and Guo Jing quickly turned the spears around and thrust them towards their chests. The spears could not penetrate the strong armour but the blow caused them to cough up blood and fall from their horses.

*The white head-gear is the rank insignia of a regimental (the thousand men) commander while the red head-gear is the rank insignia of a battalion (one thousand men) commander.

The last general was very brave and although he saw his three comrades die, he still attacked with his spear. Guo Jing avoided his thrust again and smashed down heavily on his helmet, crushing his skull.

Everyone saw Guo Jing kill four brave generals within a few seconds and became frightened. Even though they were in front of the Khan’s chariot, they did not dare step forward to fight him; they could only fire arrows hoping to ward him off. Guo Jing’s horse galloped up the small hill but hundreds of spears formed a wall in front of the Khan so he could not get closer. Suddenly his horse was struck by two arrows and collapsed; the Mongol soldiers cheered and swarmed forward.

However Guo Jing leaped up and pierced a company commander (Bai Fu Zhang) and jumped onto his horse. He swept his spear about forcefully and killed more than ten guards.

He dashed about wildly and the soldiers around him fled. He could kill at will amidst the hundreds of troops and the Mongol soldiers could not handle him. Mengke frowned and commanded, “Whoever kills Guo Jing will be rewarded with ten thousand taels of gold and a triple promotion!”

Guo Jing saw that the situation was dangerous and he realized he could not reach the Khan. He killed a few more troops nearby and quickly shot an arrow towards Mengke. Although the arrow was not shot with great strength, it flashed through the air like a lightning bolt and flew straight towards Mengke. The guards were stunned and two company commanders quickly used their bodies to shield the Khan. The arrow sliced right through the first and lodged in the second’s chest. The two of them were stuck together but they did not fall.

When Mengke saw this, his face turned pale. His guards surrounded him and they retreated down the hill.

At this time many Mongol soldiers shouted. A body of Song soldiers charged out and the leader wielded two metal oars and swung them around fiercely; it was the Fisherman (the Secret Fisherman from Si Shui ‘si shui yu yin’). Huang Rong saw that Guo Jing was not doing well and was worried. She sent the Fisherman together with 2,000 men as reinforcements. The Mongols saw their Khan retreating, causing their battle formation to crumble.

Huang Rong saw everything clearly and commanded, “Everybody, yell that the Khan is dead!” The soldiers cheered, “The Khan is dead! The Khan is dead!” The Xiangyang troops had fought with the Mongolians for many years so had picked up some Mongolian words; now they were shouting and yelling in Mongolian.

When the Mongol troops heard this, they turned around and saw their Khan’s Banner Party retreating hastily. They thought their Khan really was dead, so they discarded their weapons and quickly ran off.

Huang Rong ordered the soldiers to pursue them and opened the north gate. Thirty thousand soldiers charged out of the city. Yelu Qi’s four thousand men had decreased to half and the remainder chased the enemy together. The Mongol troops, however, were well-trained and withdrew in a  swift  and  orderly fashion, so the Song troops could not catch up. But the  five  thousand  Mongol  soldiers  trapped  in Xiangyang could not escape and were all killed. When the enemy had gone, it was already morning. This battle was fought for a whole 24 hours and the sand was stained with blood. The bodies piled up into small mountains. Damaged weapons, broken flags and dead horses littered the battlefield.

The casualty rate was forty thousand for the Mongolians and around twenty-three thousand for the defenders of Xiangyang. This is the worst defeat the Mongolians suffered since the beginning of the southern campaign.

Although the defenders of Xiangyang managed to drive away the enemy forces, Xiangyang was filled with mourning; mothers crying over their sons and wives crying over their husbands.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong did not rest immediately but went to survey the four gates to console and praise the soldiers. They then went to visit Zhou Botong and Lu Wushuang and found that they had largely recovered. Zhou Botong could not tolerate being in bed for too long and he was already pacing around restlessly. When Guo Jing and Huang Rong saw this they laughed. Finally they went back home for a good day’s sleep.

The next morning, Guo Jing went to the government office to discuss the military situation with Lu Wenhuan. Suddenly a soldier reported that a Mongolian legion (ten thousand men) was heading towards the north gate. Lu Wenhuan was shocked, “What… they have just left… why are they back? This… this can’t be happening!”

Guo  Jing  immediately  went  up  to  the  city  wall  to  take  a  look.  The  enemy  stopped  several  li  (1li/0.5  km) away and did not attack. One thousand workers, after some time, put together a ten storey high wooden tower.

By now Huang Yaoshi, Huang Rong, Yideng, Zhu Ziliu and company were observing the enemy and saw them building a tower. They could not figure out what they were up to. Zhu Ziliu said, “If they’re building this tower to spy on the city it’s too far out to see  anything  from  there.  Moreover,  if  we  fire  flaming arrows, the tower will be destroyed, what use is that?” Huang Rong frowned and thought deeply but could not come up with any reasonable explanation. The people around her were equally puzzled. Zhu Ziliu continued, “Could it be that they can’t defeat us so they’re building some sort of prayer tower? Or are they trying to perform some witchcraft?”

Guo Jing said, “I was in the Mongolian armed forces for a long time, yet I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

As they were talking, they saw the workers digging a deep and broad moat around the tower and used the mud dug out to form some sort of wall. Huang Yaoshi said angrily, “Xiangyang is the hometown of Zhuge Liang. The Mongolians dare to try some silly tricks here; they’re really looking down on us.”

Then the horns blew and the drums sounded. The legion came up and took up positions on the left of the tower. Then another legion came forward and took up positions on the right. Finally another two legions took up positions at the front and back of the tower respectively. Altogether there were 40,000 soldiers surrounding the tower. The formation spread over a few li and footmen, cavalry,  archers  and  infantry formed up together, looking like a metal wall around the tower.

A trumpet was blown and the drumming stopped; the soldiers were silent and two horses came up to the foot of the tower. The riders got off and went up the tower together. It was some distance away and they could not be seen clearly, but it looked like a male and female.

The people were still wondering what was going on when Huang Rong suddenly screamed and fainted, falling backwards. The people quickly revived her and asked together, “What? What?” Huang Rong’s face was deathly pale and she trembled as she said, “It’s Xiang’er…it’s Xiang’er.” Everyone was stunned.

Zhu Ziliu asked, “Madam Guo, what did you see?” Huang Rong said, “I didn’t see her face clearly but by intuition I deduced that it must be her. The Mongolians can’t take this city so they came up with this evil plan. This… this is totally despicable… terrible!” Huang Yaoshi and Zhu Ziliu heard this and were speechless; their faces turned pale with anger.

Guo Jing arrived and he asked, “How on Earth did Xiang’er end up there? And how are the Mongolians despicable?”

Huang Rong finally got up and said, “Brother Jing,  Xiang’er  was  unfortunately  captured  by  the Mongolians. They built this tower and filled the base with dry grass and forced Xiang’er up the tower. They’re trying to force you to surrender. If you don’t they will burn her alive to wrench our hearts and destroy our resolve so that we can’t defend the city properly.”

Guo Jing was shocked and furious and asked, “How the hell was Xiang’er captured?”

Huang Rong said, “We were busy fighting the enemy for the past several days, so I didn’t tell you about this in case you lost your concentration.” She then narrated how Guo Xiang was captured by the Golden Wheel Monk (Jinlun Fawang) and how Yang Guo went missing at the bottom of the gorge in Passionless Valley.

After she finished, Guo Jing frowned and said, “Rong’er, it was wrong of you to  do  that.  Without determining if Guo’er is dead or alive how could you just leave the valley like that?” Guo Jing had always respected his wife and never scolded her in front of others, but this time he spoke sternly to her in front of everyone, causing her to blush.

Yideng said, “Madam Guo was suffering an intense chill and could have  died  from  hypothermia.  We believed Yang Guo was not there. Besides the young lady had been captured so we quickly gave chase. You can’t blame Madam Guo.”

Guo Jing did not dare to argue with Yideng and only said sternly, “This girl Guo Xiang has always caused a lot of trouble. If anything happened to Guo’er how could we be at ease? Just let the Mongolians burn her.”

Huang Rong did not say anything but descended from the city wall. The people were all discussing how they could rescue Guo Xiang when they suddenly saw the city gate left open and a single horse galloping north. The rider was of course Huang Rong. Everyone was shocked and Guo Jing, Huang Yaoshi, Yideng and company mounted their horses and gave chase.

They galloped near the tower and stopped out of range of the archers. They saw a young pretty girl tied to a wooden pole at the top of the tower. It was indeed Guo Xiang.

Although Guo Jing said she always created trouble, but she was, after all, his daughter; how could he not be anxious? He said loudly, “Xiang’er, don’t worry, Father and Mother are coming to rescue you!” His internal strength was very solid and his voice was clearly heard at the top of the tower. Guo Xiang was already getting dizzy from the hot sun but when she heard her father’s voice, she happily shouted, “Father, Mother!”

Fawang laughed, “Hero Guo, if you want me to release her it’s very easy. But do you have the courage?”

Guo Jing had always been calm and steady; he was even calmer in precarious situations and was not angered by what Fawang said. He said, “Fawang, if you have a problem, just tell me.”

Fawang said, “If you have the benevolence of a parent, come up here with your hands bound and exchange yourself for your daughter.” He knew Guo Jing had a high sense of public duty and would not lose Xiangyang for his daughter, so he purposely said this to provoke him into walking into the trap.

But Guo Jing did not fall for it and said, “If it’s me you want, why create trouble for my daughter? Since the Mongols fear me, how can I let you kill me so easily?”

Fawang laughed coldly, “Everyone says Hero Guo’s martial arts are very outstanding and his bravery is unmatched; but he’s actually a coward who’s afraid of death.” His attempt to provoke him might have worked on others, but Guo Jing just smiled.

However Wu Santong and the Fisherman were provoked by Fawang and they waved their metal hammer and metal ores respectively and surged forward. The Mongol archers were already poised to strike and were only waiting for them to get closer to shoot them down. Reverend Yideng saw that this was not good and jumped off his horse and somersaulted, landing in front of their horses. He waved his sleeves and obstructed the horses, saying, “Go back!” The two had gone forth only because of a burst of anger, but they knew that there would be no return once they went forward. When they saw their master blocking them, they retreated immediately. The Mongols saw this old monk catch up with the horses and could not help but cheer.

Fawang said, “Your daughter is beautiful and intelligent, I like her very much. I want to take her as my disciple and pass down all my skills to her. But the Khan ordered her to be burned alive if you don’t surrender. You’ll be sad and I’ll feel that it’s such a pity, please consider this carefully.”

Guo Jing snorted but saw about forty soldiers standing at the foot  of  the  tower  with  fire  torches  who would immediately set the tower ablaze on Fawang’s command. The forty thousand soldiers guarded the tower tightly, how could anyone penetrate their formation? Even if they got through, the soldiers could just set the tower on fire, then, could they rescue Guo Xiang on time?

Guo Jing was with the Mongolian armed forces for a long time so he knew how cruel the Mongolians could be. When they conquered a city, they could kill hundreds of thousands of women and children in a day. Burning Guo Xiang alive was like killing an ant to them. He raised his head and saw that his daughter was thin and pale and was greatly distressed. He shouted, “Xiang’er, you’re a good girl of Great Song, don’t be afraid. If Father and Mother can’t save you today, we’ll kill this bald bastard to avenge you! Understand?” Guo Xiang cried and nodded, saying, “Father, Mother, I’m not afraid!” Guo Jing said, “This is my good daughter!” He took out a metal bow and shot three arrows simultaneously, hitting three soldiers at the top of the tower and the arrows went right through them. They screamed and fell to the ground. Guo Jing’s archery skills were taught by the legendary Mongolian General Jebe [Zhe- be] and he’d practiced for many years. He was standing out of range of the Mongolian archers yet he managed to hit the 3 men on the tower. The Mongol troops yelled  and  quickly  raised  their  shields  to protect themselves. Guo Jing said, “Let’s go!” He turned the horse around and went back to the city.

They got back up to the city wall. Huang Rong blankly stared at the tower and her heart was beating rapidly.

Yideng said, “Their formation is solid, if we want to save Xiang’er we must first break and destroy the formation of the forty thousand men.”

Huang Yaoshi said, “Exactly.” He thought for a while then said, “Let’s use the “Twenty-eight Star Formation” and battle them.”

Huang Rong hung her head and said, “Even if we win, they will set the tower alight, what do we do then?”

Guo Jing said, “We’ll try our best. Whether Xiang’er lives or dies we’ll leave it to fate. Father-in-law, how do we use the “Twenty-eight Star Formation”?”

Huang Yaoshi laughed, “The formation’s changes are complicated. When I saw the “Big Dipper Formation” of the Quanzhen Sect, I thought deeply and came up with this formation to counter their “Big Dipper Formation”.”

Yideng said, “Old Heretic Huang is a master of the Five Elements so I think this “Twenty-eight Star Formation” must be incredible.”

Huang Yaoshi said, “My formation was originally intended for a fight consisting of only a few dozen Wulin fighters. I never expected to use it in a battle involving thousands of men. But apart from a few changes, it can be used roughly as is. Unfortunately we lost the two eagles.” Yideng said, “Let’s hope for the best.”

Huang Yaoshi said, “If the eagles had not been killed by that  bald  bastard,  we  could  send  them  in  to rescue Xiang’er by air when the formation is in action. This “Twenty-eight Star Formation” follows the changes of the Five Elements and we need five skilled fighters to head this formation. We already have suitable people for the north, south, east and central. But Zhou Botong is injured so he can’t fill the last position. If only Yang Guo were here. His martial arts are not below Ouyang Feng’s, but where can we find him now? This last position is really giving me a headache.”

Guo Jing looked at the tower then looked far out into the north. His heart flew to the Passionless Valley, and muttered, “I’m worried about Guo’er, I don’t even know if he’s alive.”

o0o

On that day Yang Guo was totally heartbroken and thought he would never see Xiao Longnu again and so he jumped down into the gorge, wanting to smash himself up and end it all. However after falling for some time there was a splash and he found himself in a deep lake. He had fallen from a great height and so he sank deeply into the water. Suddenly he noticed a light in front of him which looked like an underwater cave. He wanted to look closely at it but the water’s buoyant pressure was too high and he rose back to the surface. At this time Guo Xiang also fell into the lake.

Yang Guo did not hesitate and immediately dragged Guo Xiang to the surface and pulled her to the bank and asked, “Sister, how did you fall down here?”

Guo Xiang said, “I saw you jump down and so I followed suit.”

Yang Guo shook his head saying, “Nonsense! Are you not afraid of death?” Guo Xiang laughed, “If you’re not afraid, neither am I.”

Yang Guo’s heart trembled and he thought, “Don’t tell me that at such a young age she already has deep feelings for me?” He shivered slightly.

She then took out the last needle saying, “Brother Yang, on that day when you gave me the three golden needles, you said I could ask for a wish for every needle and you would promise to do it. Today I’m telling you my third wish: Whether or not you get to meet Sister-in-law, you will not commit suicide.” She then placed the needle on his palm.

Yang Guo looked at the needle and said, “You came all the way from Xiangyang just to ask for this?”

Guo Xiang was delighted and said, “Yup. You’re a man of your word. You won’t break your promise to me.” Yang Guo sighed. He had just gone from life to death, then from death back to life. No matter how strong his will to die, he would not repeatedly attempt suicide. He examined Guo Xiang and saw that she was shivering and her teeth were chattering. Her face was void of colour. He picked some dried leaves and wanted to start a fire but their flints were wet and rendered useless, so he said, “Sister, circulate your internal energy to get rid of the cold so you won’t get a chill.”

Guo Xiang was still worried and asked, “So you promise not to attempt suicide again?” Yang Guo said, “I promise!” Guo Xiang was overjoyed and said, “Let’s circulate our energy together.”

They sat down together and circulated their chi. Yang Guo had practiced his internal energy on the “Chilled Jade Bed” when he was young and did not fear the cold so he placed his palm on Guo Xiang’s back and sent a stream of ‘yang’ chi to her. Before long Guo Xiang felt warm and stopped shivering.

When she was well-rested, Yang Guo asked how she ended up here in the Passionless Valley. Guo Xiang told him. Yang Guo angrily said, “That Fawang is so ruthless, when we get out of here I’m going to beat him to a pulp.” Then they saw a large white eagle crashing down into the lake, appearing to be severely injured. Guo Xiang was surprised and said, “That’s my family’s eagle.” Then another eagle flew down and landed near them after previously retrieving it’s injured mate and Yang Guo placed Guo Xiang on its back. He thought the eagle would be back to pick him up so he waited for some time but it did not show up. Little did he know that the eagle was dead.

Yang Guo looked around and saw a few bee hives on a large tree. The bees were larger than normal and were of the same species that Xiao Longnu reared back at the Ancient Tomb. Yang  Guo  exclaimed  in surprise and stood rooted to the ground. He then went over to examine the hives closely. He saw that they were man-made and the workmanship looked like Xiao Longnu’s doing.

He thought, “Could Long’er have lived here after she jumped down?” He paced around the bank and felt that the gorge was like the bottom of a deep well. The place hardly received any sunlight.

He walked around and found that some of the trees had much of their bark stripped off and then he saw some flowers and stones arranged neatly. He suddenly became happy and worried at the same time. His heart beat rapidly as he felt that Xiao Longnu must have lived here before but after sixteen years he did not know what might have happened to her. He had never believed in divine intervention but now he was consumed with anxiety and knelt down and prayed, “O’ Heaven, please let me meet Long’er again.”

After praying, he looked around again but did not find any more traces of her. He sat under a tree and thought, “Even if Long’er is dead there would surely be some remains left behind, unless they have sunk to the bottom of the lake.” He then remembered the light beneath the lake’s surface and wanted to explore it, so he jumped into the lake.

He shouted, “I must get to the bottom of this. I’ll never give up until I find out what happened to her.” He dived into the lake and it got colder as he went deeper. Soon the water was icy-cold. Yang Guo did not mind the cold but the buoyant pressure was too high and he could not dive any deeper. He was now out of breath so he surfaced and grabbed a large stone and tried again.

This time he sank rapidly and saw the light again. He quickly swam towards it and strangely felt a swift current sweeping him into a cave. He threw the stone aside and found that the cave floor was going upwards. Soon he broke the surface with a splash. He saw brilliant sunlight and the fragrance of flowers filled his nose. It was like another world. He looked around and saw beautiful flowers and bright green grass - it was as if he entered a large garden. However the place was still and quiet and there was no one around. He got out of the water and saw a thatched hut several meters away.

He dashed forwards but slowed down after a few steps and thought, “What if I don’t find out anything here?” His heart sank and feared that his last hope would soon be dashed. He stopped outside the hut and listened carefully but there seemed to be no one inside. He only heard the bees buzzing.

After a while he plucked up his courage and trembled, saying, “I’ve come for a visit. Please pardon my intrusion.” He repeated this but there was still no response. He  lightly  pushed  open  the  door  and  it creaked open.

Stepping in, he looked around and was stunned. The furniture was simple but the house was sparkling clean. There was only a table and chair but its arrangement was very familiar, exactly the same as the arrangement in the Ancient Tomb. He did not examine the place and naturally turned left and he saw a small room. After passing the small room, he found himself looking into a bigger room. In the room the bed, table and chair also had exactly the same arrangement as in the Ancient Tomb. The only difference was that the furniture in the Ancient Tomb was made of stone while the furniture here is made of wood.

On the left was a bed which looked like the “Cold Jade Bed” he’d practiced his Internal Strength on. In the middle, a long rope was suspended through the room like the one he used to practice his Qing Gong (Lightness Skill). Near the window was a small stool which was like the one where he learned to read and write. On the left was a rough wooden cabinet; when he opened it he saw children's clothes made of tree bark which was exactly of the same design Xiao Longnu made for him years ago. He walked into the room and touched the bed. The tears had already welled up in his eyes but now he could not hold them back and the tears rolled down his cheeks and fell onto the bed.

Suddenly he felt a smooth hand lightly stroking his hair, gently asking, "Guo’er, what's making you unhappy?"

The tone and the manner his hair was stroked was similar to how Xiao Longnu cajoled him when he was young. Yang Guo jerked around and saw a fair and extremely beautiful girl standing gracefully in front of him. She looked exactly the same as the Xiao Longnu he thought of daily and missed terribly for the past sixteen years.

The two of them stared at each other then exclaimed “Ah!” and embraced each other tightly. It seemed so real yet it seemed like a dream.

After a long while Yang Guo finally broke the silence. He said, “Long’er, you’ve not changed a single bit. But I have aged.” Xiao Longnu stared at him and said, “No, it’s just that my Guo’er has grown up.”

Xiao Longnu was slightly older than Yang Guo by a few years but she lived in the Ancient Tomb since young and learned internal strength techniques from her master, which required her to purge her emotions. Yang Guo however more readily expressed his emotions, so at their wedding the two already looked about the same age.

o0o

The “Jade Maiden Skill's” cultivating techniques from the Ancient Tomb sect concentrates on the essential rules of the "Twelve Nothingness and Twelve Plentifulness" which support each other. The 'Twelve Nothingness' refers to the restrictions regarding thought, love, desires, matters, words, laughter, worries, fun, happiness, anger, good and evil. The 'Twelve Nothingness' will inevitably become part of one's life. The ‘Twelve Plentifulness’ states: that if one thinks too much, the concentration will be disrupted. If one loves too much, the energy will break down. If one desires too much, one will lose one’s knowledge. If one has too many matters at hand, one will look weary in appearance. If one talks too much, it will affect one’s breathing. If one laughs too much, one will strain one’s organs. If one worries too much, it will affect one’s nerves. If one plays too much, it will affect one’s ideas. If one is too happy, it will result in complacency and trouble. If one is too angry, it will affect one’s pulse. If one experiences too much good, one will despair. If one experiences too much evil, one will invite chaos. If one does not rid the ‘Twelve Plentifulness’, one would not reach enlightenment.

o0o

Xiao Longnu had practiced this skill since young and had no happiness or worries, so she was even more emotionless than the founder Lin Chaoying. Once Yang Guo entered the Ancient Tomb things changed and as they got closer she found it harder to follow the ‘less speech’, ‘less action’, ‘less happiness’ and ‘less worries’ rules. After their marriage they were separated for sixteen years. Yang Guo traveled around and roamed Jianghu and missed her terribly. Xiao Longnu, on the other hand, was forced to live in this deserted valley and could not totally avoid thinking of him. She found herself practicing these principles again to combat her boredom. When they finally met again it appeared as though Yang Guo was older than her.

Xiao Longnu had not spoken for the past sixteen years and now when she started speaking again she was not very fluent. So they did not speak and just stared at each other smiling. Yang Guo could not contain his excitement any longer and took her hand and ran out of the hut, saying, “Long’er, I’m extremely happy.” He jumped up into a big tree and somersaulted several times.

In his excitement he forgot everything and somersaulted just like he did when he was young in the Ancient Tomb. He never thought about this before and never expected to do something like this as a middle-aged man. The only difference was that his qing gong (lightness skill) was excellent and he could somersault effortlessly. Xiao Longnu laughed heartily and cast all the ‘less laughter’ and ‘less happiness’ into the wind.

Xiao Longnu took out a handkerchief. Yang Guo finished somersaulting and walked to her grinning. Xiao Longnu would always wipe his sweat with a handkerchief; but now his face was not flushed and he was not breathless, of course he was not sweating. But she wiped his forehead all the same.

Yang Guo took the handkerchief and saw that it was made of tree bark and was rather rough and thought she’d had an uncomfortable life here and was very regretful. He stroked her hair gently and said, “Long’er, you have suffered much these past sixteen years.”

Xiao Longnu sighed and said, “If I hadn’t grown up in the Ancient Tomb, the past sixteen years would not have been easy for me.” They sat shoulder to shoulder beside a stone and talked about past events. Yang Guo asked her every single detail. As Xiao Longnu talked for a while, her speech became more fluent; then she slowly narrated her story of the past sixteen years.

That day when Yang Guo threw the half-pill down in the gorge Xiao Longnu knew he did not want to be left alone since her condition was supposedly fatal. That night she thought carefully and decided to die first and kill off his thoughts of suicide so that he would neutralize the “Passionless Poison”. She was afraid that if she left traces of her suicide it would only hasten his suicide. She thought for half a night and then she finally went to the Broken Heart Cliff and carved the words. She purposely made a sixteen- year long appointment and then she jumped into the gorge. At that time she thought that if Yang Guo’s life could be saved, after sixteen years he would have forgotten her and dispelled his thoughts of suicide.

When she said this, Yang Guo sighed, saying, “Why did you think of sixteen years? If you said eight years wouldn’t we have been reunited eight years ago?”

Xiao Longnu said, “I’m aware of your deep feelings for me and eight years would be too short to ease your feelings. Ah, I didn’t expect that even after sixteen years you would still jump down.”

Yang Guo laughed, “That’s the advantage of having such profound feelings. If I got over you and only cried at the Broken Heart Cliff then went off, I would never see you again.”

Xiao Longnu said, “This is fate.” Both of them came back from death to life and were finally reunited, so they were very thankful for their good fortune.

They felt sad for a while. Yang Guo then asked, “Then what happened after you jumped down?”

Xiao Longnu said, “I was swept unconscious into the cave and carried to this place, so I lived here. This place is devoid of animals but there were plenty of fish in the lake and fruits on the trees but there was no cloth so I had to use tree bark to make clothes.”

Yang Guo said, “When you were struck by the “Soul Freezing Needles” and the poison entered your major accupoints, your condition was near-fatal. How did you get well down here?” Yang Guo looked carefully at her and saw her snow-white face had no traces of blood and the black cloud between her eyes had disappeared.

Xiao Longnu said, “After I lived here for several days the poison took effect and my whole body was on fire and I almost could not take it, but I remembered that on our wedding night you taught me how to reverse my chi flow on the “Chilled Jade Bed”. It couldn’t neutralize the poison but could relieve the symptoms. The water here is icy cold and the chill could penetrate the bones, so I got back into the water and stayed for a while and found that the effects were amazing. Thereafter I often went to the lake’s bank and looked up, hoping to get some news from you. One day a few Jade Bees flew down to the lake. They were left behind by the Old Urchin (Zhou Botong). I treated them like friends and built a few nests for them. Soon they multiplied. I consumed the Jade Bees’ honey and the white fish in the lake and found my discomfort decreasing. So the Jade Bees’ honey and the white fish have anti-poison properties and when consumed as food would increase the time interval between the poison’s reactions. At first it reacted twice a day, then once every few days, then once every few months, then for the past five or six years it never reacted again, so I guess I’m cured now.”

Yang Guo happily said, “So good will be rewarded with good. That year if you hadn’t given the Jade Bees to the Old Urchin he wouldn’t have brought them here and you wouldn’t have been saved.”

Xiao Longnu said, “When I got better, I missed you but the cliff walls were several hundred meters high and were straight and sheer, how could I get up? So I used the thorns on the flowers and tattooed the words ‘I’m at the bottom of Passionless Valley’ on the bees’ wings. I tattooed several thousand bees but I got no response so I feared that I would never see you again.”

Yang Guo slapped his leg and said, “I’m too careless. Every time I came to the Passionless Valley I always saw the bees but I never caught one to examine it or I could have kept you from a few years of misery.”

Xiao Longnu laughed, “This is just a plan I used because I couldn’t think of anything else. Actually who would think a bee would have words on its wings? The words are also so small; even if a hundred of them flew past your eyes you wouldn’t notice the words. I was just hoping that a bee might get trapped in a spider’s web and then you would see the words. When  you  saw  them  you  would  remember  our relationship and rescue me.” What she did not know was that the words were discovered by Zhou Botong, who did nothing, and the meaning was deciphered by Huang Rong when she saw them.

They chatted for half a day and Xiao Longnu went back into the hut to grill a big fish. The lake’s water was very cold and the white fish were smallish but tasty and filling. Yang Guo ate the fish and felt some warmth in his stomach, making it very comfortable. He then  told  her what  he  did  for the  past sixteen years. He roamed Jianghu and did many heroic deeds so his life was more  action-packed  than  Xiao Longnu’s who lived in the lonely valley. Xiao Longnu never bothered about all the action and was contented with just looking at Yang Guo. So she smiled and listened to his exciting adventures and forgot everything he said soon after. Yang Guo however was very inquisitive and asked everything, including how she caught the fish and built the hut and showed great interest in every detail, making it seem like the small valley was actually more interesting than the whole world. The two of them talked throughout the night and into the next morning before sleeping. They woke up in the afternoon and Yang Guo said, “Long’er, should we stay here until we’re old or should we go back to the wonderful world?”

Xiao Longnu would have preferred to live here peacefully with Yang Guo but she knew he liked noise and excitement. Although she loved him deeply she was reluctant to leave this place so she said, “Let’s go up and take a look, if things are bad out there we can always come back, but… but it’d be difficult to get up.”

They dived back into the lake, through the cave and went back to the bank. They saw a long rope going all the way up and many random footprints by the bank. There was even a makeshift fireplace which had not died out. Yang Guo said, “Ah, some people came to look for us but couldn’t get past the lake.” He walked around and saw some words carved on a large tree which said, “Yideng, Yaoshi, Botong, Yinggu, Rong, Ying and Wushuang couldn’t find Yang Guo so we went back.”

Yang Guo was touched and said, “They’ve not forgotten me.” Xiao Longnu said, “No one would forget you.” Yang Guo said, “Although they came here, they did not fall into the lake with great speed and hence couldn’t go deep enough to see the underwater cave. If I also came down with a rope, I wouldn’t have been able to find you either.” Xiao Longnu said, “I already said all this coincidence is due to fate.” Yang Guo shook his head and laughed, “This is called ‘With sincerity, one can cut rocks or gold’.”

He tugged the rope to test it and it felt firmly attached, so he said, “Let me go up first to see if that Fawang is still there.” But he remembered that Reverend Yideng, Island Master Huang and Zhou Botong were all present so Fawang must be miles away by now. Then he asked, “Do you still have any martial skills? If you can’t climb, I can carry you up.” Xiao Longnu smiled, “Although I didn’t improve even slightly for the past sixteen years, I still retain much of my old skills.” Yang Guo laughed. He grabbed the rope and jumped, moving several meters a second. Xiao Longnu followed suit and they got out in no time.

They stood side-by-side at the Broken Heart Cliff and looked at the words carved into the rock face by Xiao Longnu years ago; it seemed like a lifetime ago to them. They looked at each other and giggled with joy and forgot all their troubles of sixteen years ago.

Yang Guo plucked a Dragon Girl Flower and placed it in her hair and the color contrasted with her face beautifully. He could not decide if the flower added vibrancy to her or she added beauty to the flower.

o0o

Huang Yaoshi was explaining the “Twenty-eight Star Formation” at the top of Xiangyang’s city wall for the battle with Fawang. Guo Jing found Lu Wenhuan and requested him to give the order for Huang Yaoshi to take command of the soldiers. At this time many of the  heroes  who  attended  the  ‘Heroes’  Meet  had already left, but there were still many able people in the city.

Huang Yaoshi said, “The Mongolians are using 40,000 soldiers to surround the tower. If we use more soldiers to defeat them it wouldn’t require much skill. So we’ll also use forty thousand soldiers. In Sun Zi’s Art of War, using surrounding the enemy when you outnumber him ten to one is no big deal, but it needs some skill to surround the enemy one on one.” He stood on the command post and said, “This “Twenty- eight Star Formation” follows the Five Elements.” He waved the command flag and briefed them. Then he said, “The changes are complex and you can’t be familiar with this in a single day. So for this battle we must appoint five skilled martial arts experts familiar with the Five  Elements  to  command  the  five divisions. Everyone is to obey their commands to carry out the formation.” They all waited eagerly.

Huang Yaoshi said, “The central division represents Earth and it shall be commanded by Guo Jing with eight thousand troops. Its mission is to rescue Guo Xiang and not to battle the enemy. All the soldiers are to carry a bag of sand on their backs to put out the fire if necessary.” Guo Jing received the order and stood aside.

Huang Yaoshi continued, “The south division represents Fire and it shall be  commanded  by  Reverend Yideng with eight thousand troops. One thousand men will escort the commander and the other seven thousand will be split into 7 battalions commanded by Zhu Ziliu, Wu Santong, The Fisherman, the Wu brothers, Yelu Yan and Wanyan Ping.” Reverend Yideng accepted the command.

Huang Yaoshi continued, “The north division represents Water and it shall be commanded by Huang Rong with eight thousand troops. One thousand men will escort the commander and the other seven thousand will be split into seven battalions commanded by Yelu Qi, Elder Liang, Guo Fu and other senior Beggar Clan members.” Huang Rong accepted the command. This division was made up mainly of Beggar Clan members and all were tried and valiant veterans.

Huang Yaoshi then said, “The east division represents Wood and it shall be commanded by me, Old Heretic Huang, and there shall also be eight thousand men under me. All my disciples are dead with the exception of Cheng Ying and Sha Gu, but they are not present.” So he appointed six heroes who had attended the ‘Heroes’ Meet to command the battalions in his division. He said, “The east division shall also be divided into eight battalions of one thousand men each and 1 battalion will escort me.”

Finally he appointed the west division’s commander, saying, “This division shall be  commanded  by Quanzhen Sect Leader Li Zhichang…” As he said this, everyone felt that in terms of martial arts,  this division’s commander had the weakest martial arts among the five divisions. Suddenly someone shouted, “Old Heretic Huang, how could you ignore me?” Everyone turned around and saw Zhou Botong. Huang Yaoshi said, “Brother Zhou, you’re injured, you shouldn’t exert yourself, I originally wanted to appoint you to this position but…”

Zhou Botong said, “It’s such a minor injury; it’s not important. I’ll take it. Zhi Chang, you dare to vie with me?” Li Zhichang bowed and said, “I do not.” Zhou Botong laughed, “Good, I knew you wouldn’t dare.” He then took the command token from Li Zhichang. Huang Yaoshi just said, “Brother Zhou, be careful. You shall take eight thousand troops and one thousand of them shall be under Yinggu to escort you. The other seven battalions shall be commanded by Li Zhichang and other third Generation Quanzhen disciples. Your division represents Metal.”

After appointing the commanders he ordered the sergeant-major to prepare the weapons and equipment. He then waved his command flag and the forty thousand men got into formation. He shouted, “Legend has it that “Twenty-eight Celestial Generals” subdued the Demons long, long ago. Although we are not some Heavenly Army, we shall repel the invaders and protect our land from the Mongolians or we shall die trying!” Everyone cheered like thunder and the five divisions left the city in all directions.

The west division marched out and each soldier carried a wooden pole on his back and they attacked the tower. One thousand of them carried shields and warded off the arrows while the remaining seven thousand threw down their poles and quickly built a structure which followed Huang Yaoshi’s diagram based on the Five Elements and Eight Trigrams. Soon they blockaded off the eastern side of the tower.

The west division was made up mainly of Quanzhen disciples and they were familiar with the Dipper Formation, so their swords flashed like lightning and they formed groups of seven and platoons of forty- nine darting left and right, causing the Mongolians to see blurry images and could only fend them off with arrows.

The north division roared in and Huang Rong, together with the Beggars’ Clan members, brought hoses with them and they sprayed poison onto the Mongol troops. The poison caused severe pain and corroded the skin. The Mongols could not take it and retreated south.

The south division appeared through a great cloud of smoke and the 8,000 troops led by Yideng attacked with fire. The soldiers had some sort of fire thrower which spewed out flames at the enemy soldiers. The Mongol troops saw that things were really going wrong and were pushed towards the centre. Guo Jing and his eight thousand troops moved forward gradually and when they saw the Mongol soldiers thrown into confusion, they charged straight to the tower.

Suddenly an alarm was sounded and many heads popped up from the ground. The Mongols were also well-versed in warfare and they also placed more than ten thousand troops in ambush. Guo Jing saw this and knew it was a trap. The Mongol troops were already in chaos under the onslaught of the “Twenty- eight Star Formation” and the Song troops were about to reach their objective; but now they could not advance.

The drums rolled like the rumbling thunder and the Song troops were engaged in a bitter fight with the Mongol troops. The soldiers protecting the tower were some of the best archers and their arrows descended like rain and hindered the advance of Guo Jing’s central division. Huang Yaoshi waved his flag and changed the formation; now it was Fire against Wood and Metal against Water.

The “Twenty-eight Star Formation” followed the principles of the Five  Elements.  The  south  division’s Yideng attacked the centre, Guo Jing’s central division attacked the west, Zhou Botong and the Quanzhen Sect attacked the north, Huang Rong and the Beggars’ Sect attacked the east and Huang Yaoshi’s division attacked the south. The formation’s status now was: Fire and Earth, Earth and Metal, Metal and Water, Water and Wood, Wood and Fire. The Song regiment only had forty thousand men but the formation was ingenious and the division commanders were highly skilled fighters. Moreover the Song soldiers were all grateful towards Guo Jing and Huang Rong, so they risked their lives to save his daughter. Even though the Mongolians outnumbered them almost two to one, the Mongolians could not fend them off.

They fought for a long time and Huang Yaoshi waved his flag again. One division withdrew to the central position, Guo Jing’s division attacked north again, Yideng’s division returned south, one division went west and another attacked the east. The formation changed and now the status was: Wood against Earth, Earth against Water, Water against Fire, Fire against Metal, and Metal against Wood.

The principles of the Five Elements seem mysterious but was actually discovered when the ancient Chinese people studied the changes in the environment. The principles were derived from the Tao of the Yin and Yang, religious worship, medicine and mathematics etc. all depended on these. This was said to be unique in the whole world. The Mongols were brave and fierce warriors and their fighting skills were excellent. But their knowledge of such matters was rather shallow; how could they be a match for someone like Huang Yaoshi? After a few changes, the soldiers guarding the tower became very confused as they saw groups of Song troops moving back and forth and they did not know how to deal with them.

Fawang was watching the battle from atop the tower and was shocked. A long time ago even Huang Rong’s “Stone Formation” gave him many difficulties. With Huang Yaoshi being ten times more knowledgeable than Huang Rong, how could he understand what was going on? The “Twenty-eight Star Formation” completely awed him and he saw that the casualties on his side were increasing rapidly. Guo Jing’s division was getting closer to the tower every second. Although he had Guo Xiang in his power, he was reluctant to burn her alive. He glanced at her and saw that although she was tied up, her head was raised proudly and she showed no fear. Fawang said, “Little Guo Xiang, get your father to surrender quickly. I’ll count from one to ten; if they don’t surrender I’ll order the tower to be set on fire.”

Guo Xiang said, “If you love to count you can count to ten thousand for all I care.” Fawang angrily said, “You really think I won’t burn you alive?”

Guo Xiang coldly said, “I just think you’re pathetic.” Fawang shouted, “How?”

Guo Xiang said, “You can’t beat my father and mother, you can’t beat my grandfather, you can’t beat Reverend Yideng, you can’t beat Zhou Botong and you can’t beat my brother Yang Guo. All you’re capable of is to tie me up here. I’m just a small fry in Xiangyang, so I don’t deserve such despicable behavior. Fawang let me give you a piece of advice.”

Fawang gritted his teeth and asked, “What?”

Guo Xiang said, “What use has a person like you got on Earth? Just jump off the tower and go to hell!” Guo Xiang was already past caring about life and death. She had a razor-sharp tongue and she had never lost an argument.

Fawang exploded with rage and screamed, “Guo Jing listen well! If you don’t surrender I’ll burn the tower!”

Guo Jing said, “Do you think I am the sort who will surrender?”

Huang Yaoshi shouted in Mongolian, “Jinlun Fawang, you’re too stupid to beat this enemy. You can only bully small girls and you are not brave enough to fight us with real weapons. How can such a stupid and cowardly man be considered a hero? You were captured by us at the Passionless Valley and you kowtowed to Guo Xiang eighteen times and begged her to release you. You’re an ungrateful bastard and you still dare to call yourself the First Protector of Mongolia?”

The part about kowtowing to Guo Xiang was rubbish. Huang Yaoshi was crafty and brilliant and got Huang Rong to translate all the stuff he just said before the battle and he quickly memorized everything. Now he said it with his chi and everyone heard this clearly through the din and Fawang did not know how to argue. The Mongolians always respected their warriors and despised cowards; now they heard what Huang Yaoshi said, they looked up at the tower with contempt. The two armies were fighting intensely when the Mongolians heard that their commander was such a despicable man, and their morale fell. The Song troops were all brave and valiant and now had an advantage.

Fawang saw that something was wrong and shouted, “Guo Jing, listen. I’m going to count from one to ten. When I shout ‘10’, your daughter will burn! 1… 2… 3… 4…” He paused slightly after every number and hoped that Guo Jing could not take it and be greatly distressed if he did not surrender.

Guo Jing, Huang Yaoshi, Yideng and Zhou Botong’s divisions heard Fawang counting from the top of the tower. They saw a few hundred soldiers bearing torches at the foot of the tower, only waiting for the command to set everything alight. Everyone was getting anxious and charged toward the tower for all they were worth. But there were a few thousand archers firing arrows from the tower which severely impeded their advance. Under the rain of arrows, people like the Fisherman, Elder Liang and Wu Xiuwen were injured and some third Generation Quanzhen disciples were killed together with dozens of Beggar Clan members. The Song soldiers killed were beyond counting.

Before the battle Huang Rong told Guo Fu to take off the Soft Armour and give it to her grandfather. She expected a tough battle and did not want her father to get hurt in the process of saving Guo Xiang. Huang Yaoshi accepted it but secretly took it off and tricked Zhou Botong into putting it on. So although Zhou Botong was hit by many arrows he was not injured and he found this amusing. He went charging forward and attacked the archers with his palms, causing them to back off. Then Fawang shouted, “… 8… 9… 10! Good, burn the tower!” In an instant the base of the tower was engulfed in flames and the thick smoke rose into the air. Guo Jing’s eight thousand soldiers all had bags of sand on their backs but they could not get near the tower.

Huang Rong saw the thick black smoke and her face turned white. She waved her flag randomly and disorderly. Yelu Qi went forward to support her and said, “Mother-in-law, go behind the formation and rest, I’ll save Sister Xiang even if it costs me my life.”

At this time a thunderous roar came from afar. Many Mongolian soldiers from behind the formation appeared and attacked Xiangyang from two sides. “Long live the Khan!” The Mongol Khan was personally commanding the assault and the Mongol troops swarmed towards the city.

Guo Jing was carrying a spear and shield and had already advanced within a hundred feet of the tower. The Mongolian archers were unable to hold him off any longer and he looked like he would ascend the tower at any moment. Suddenly he heard a disturbance at the rear of the formation and thought, “Oh no, we’ve been tricked! The city has many soldiers but no able commanders, this is bad!”

When Guo Jing and Huang Yaoshi planned the battle they made sure the city was fully prepared for any sneak attack. But the Mongol soldiers at the tower were exceptionally tough and the Khan ignored the battle at the tower and attacked Xiangyang with his entire army. Guo Jing thought, “Saving the city is more important than saving my daughter!” He said loudly, “Father-in-law, let’s not worry about Xiang’er, we must go back and attack the enemy.”

Huang Yaoshi looked back and saw the smoke rising higher and Fawang walking down the tower, leaving Guo Xiang alone at the top. He decided that he could not sacrifice the whole city for Guo Xiang and sighed, “So be it!” He waved his command flag and the troops headed back to the city.

Guo Xiang, tied on top of the tower, saw that her parents and grandfather would be unable to save her. The heat was getting more intense. She knew the fire was spreading quickly and she would be burned to death soon. She was rather fearful at first, but then she calmed down and looked at the beautiful scenery, thinking, “It’s such a fun world, but I’m going to die soon. I wonder where Brother Yang is. Has he come up from the valley yet?”

She thought back to her meeting with Yang Guo and felt her life was not a waste. She was in grave danger but she did not bother about the battle at the foot of the tower. Suddenly there was roar from afar and it sounded like soldiers being killed by the thousands.

Guo Xiang was surprised because the roar was similar to Yang Guo’s roar which made wild animals cower. She turned her head and saw the Mongol troops on the west and north falling and rolling away from two people. The soldiers were being swept aside with a force comparable to huge waves. Between the two people was a large eagle and it spread its wings generating a typhoon and the arrows fell harmlessly to the ground on contacting its wings. This bird was fierce and majestic and it was of course Yang Guo’s Divine Eagle.

Guo Xiang was overjoyed and saw that one of the two people wore a green hat and yellow shirt and was definitely Yang Guo. The other was a beautiful lady who wore a white gown which floated in the wind. The two wielded long swords and the swords flashed together gracefully. They followed behind the eagle and charged to the tower. Guo Xiang shouted, “Big brother is this Xiao Longnu?”

The lady was obviously Xiao Longnu, but he was too far and did not hear Guo Xiang talking to him. The Divine Eagle cleared the path and deflected the arrows effortlessly; its wings were like iron but it was still slightly injured. The Mongol troops had never seen such a fierce and powerful animal before and tried to stab it but were struck by Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu’s swords and they fell away.

Yang Guo shouted, “Sister, don’t be afraid, I’ll save you.” He saw  the  lower  half  of  the  tower  on  fire  and jumped lightly,  reaching  the  ladder  and  he  quickly  climbed  up.  Suddenly  a  strong  wind  generated  by  a palm struck downwards – it was Fawang.

Yang Guo sheathed his sword and used his palm to intercept the blow from Fawang. When the two huge forces collided, both of them rocked about and the wooden ladder trembled like it was going to break. Both were shocked and both praised his opponent: "I haven't seen him for sixteen years, I never imagined his internal strength would have increased this much."

Yang Guo saw that the situation was dire and would not allow him to compete with palm strength at the ladder again. He drew his sword again and attacked Fawang’s legs. Fawang was standing above and if he used his wheels to fight he would have to bend over and that would put him at a disadvantage. Furthermore his wheels were shorter than the sword, so he turned around and decided to go back up to the platform again. Yang Guo raised his sword and attacked him ferociously from behind; every stance was swift as lightning. Fawang did not turn around but used his ears to determine where the attacks came from. He used a wheel to block every stance; it was as though he had eyes on the back of his head. Yang Guo praised him, "Damn monk; very impressive!" Fawang was standing on top of the platform and immediately retaliated with one wheel. Yang Guo avoided it and counter-attacked with his sword. He dived towards Fawang in the air. Fawang used his golden wheel to block him and his silver wheel was about to strike the blade.

Just a moment ago they exchanged one stance and Yang Guo felt that the palm energy of Fawang was solid, robust and strong. He had never encountered such power amongst his former adversaries. He was surprised by this. He had trained in the waves of the ocean and was capable of withstanding the strong forces of the tide’s waves. Sixteen years ago Fawang was no match for him; but today, after exchanging one blow, he was almost unable to withstand that blast.

Seeing that the wheels were about to make contact with his blade, he did not retract his sword. He wanted to test the internal strength of Fawang. The wheels and sword collided with a loud clang. The huge powers collided with each other and Yang Guo’s sword broke in two while the wheels flew out of Fawang's hands. The wheels fell to the ground smashing three Mongolian archers. Yang Guo was shocked and thought, "For sixteen years I have not used the heavy iron sword; I see that I am too overconfident today."

In order to perform the “Jade Maiden Swordplay”, Yang Guo could not use his heavy iron sword; therefore he used an ordinary sword instead. When his blade made contact with the wheels of the Fawang it broke immediately.

After exchanging one blow both leapt aside and their arms felt numb. Then Fawang took out his iron and bronze wheels and attacked again. Yang Guo did not have any other weapon, so he generated his strength to his right sleeve and whisked out. He also used his left palm to attack Fawang.

Guo Xiang shouted, "Old monk, I told you before. You’re no match for him! If you're really that powerful, why do you have to use your weapons? Can't you fight him empty-handed? You're a disgrace!" Fawang grunted and did not answer but increased the power and speed of his stances.

Huang Yaoshi, Guo Jing and Huang Rong were leading their troops back to defend Xiangyang, but when they saw Yang Guo, Xiao Longnu and the Divine Eagle fighting their way towards the platform, they had hopes again of saving Guo Xiang.

Huang Yaoshi waved his command flag and ordered four thousand soldiers from the east, south, west, north and central divisions forming a total of twenty thousand soldiers to return and attack the invading Mongolian troops. The remaining soldiers were to assist Yang Guo in saving Guo Xiang. Although the Song troops were outnumbered their spirits were raised when they saw Yang Guo on the platform. Each fought one against ten and the Mongolian archers kept shooting their arrows and held their ground firmly. Each time the Song soldiers advanced forward they were soon pushed back by the uncountable arrows.

The battle at the gates of Xiangyang was also at its' peak. Governor Lu Wenhuan was too afraid to lead the armies; he wore his armour and hid in the government office with his two beloved concubines. He was trembling madly and kept stammering, "Merciful Avalokitesvara... please protect m...m...my entire family...Merci... merciful Avalokitesvara..." His two concubines were patting his chest and wiping away his saliva.

The scouts came and reported, "Another ten thousand enemy soldiers have reinforced the attacking troops at the east gate... At the north gate the enemy troops have put up the ladders..."

Lu Wenhuan rolled his eyes with fear and kept asking, "Is Master Guo back yet? Haven't the Mongolians retreated yet?"

By this time Yang Guo, using one arm, had fought more than two hundred stances with Fawang. Both of their martial arts were quite different from each other and the battle kept intensifying. The entire platform was shaken by their wheels and palm. The smoke coming from the bottom of the platform also thickened and soon a black cloud covered the platform. Although Yang Guo was not using a weapon he was not at a disadvantage. Fawang felt the platform shaking lightly and knew that the fire had started to consume one of the support pillars of the platform. It would only be a question of time before the platform collapsed and then he, Yang Guo and Guo Xiang would all die together. Also he saw that the techniques of Yang Guo were quite marvelous and feared that after another hundred stances or so he would be defeated by Yang Guo. In this dire situation he attacked Yang Guo's right shoulder with his iron wheel and when Yang Guo was about to avoid that wheel he threw his bronze wheel towards Guo Xiang's face. Since she was tied to a pole, it was impossible for her to dodge that wheel.

Yang Guo was horrified and leapt towards Guo Xiang and used his sleeve to whisk the bronze wheel away. However, when two experts fought, it was unwise to be distracted and Yang Guo's attention was on Guo Xiang, leaving himself unguarded. Fawang struck out with his iron wheel the sharp edges were aimed at Yang Guo’s left leg. In mid-air Yang Guo frantically kicked Fawang's wrist  with  his  right  leg.  Fawang twisted his wheel around and Yang Guo could not avoid it and his right leg was cut. Blood immediately flowed from his wound and his injury was not slight. Guo Xiang called out in fear and Fawang took out his lead wheel. With two wheels in his hands he attacked Guo Xiang again from the top and bottom. He knew, that although Yang Guo was injured, he could not overcome him at the moment. So he deliberately launched a fake attack on Guo Xiang and by doing so Yang Guo would try to protect her with all his might. In a few moments Yang Guo was in a dangerous position and could only defend and no longer attack.

Guo Xiang shouted, "Don't bother about me now! Just kill this old monk to avenge me!" Yang Guo called out in pain, as his right shoulder was cut again by a wheel.

Xiao Longnu and the Divine Eagle were standing on the ground together with Zhou Botong and they prevented the archers from shooting arrows at Guo Xiang. Her attention was entirely focused on Yang Guo, even while she was killing those soldiers. When she saw him drenched in blood her heart skipped a beat. It was like her soul left her body; the ladder was consumed by the fire and there was no way for her to go up and help. Her mind went blank and she just raised her sword and was unaware of where she was and what she was doing there.

Whenever Yang Guo was faced with a great, powerful adversary he would use his “Melancholic Sad Palms” to defeat his opponent. This style was linked to his emotional state, but now he was newly reunited with Xiao Longnu and his heart was filled with bliss and happiness. There was not a trace of melancholy or sadness any longer. He was now faced with a dangerous situation and was using this very style. But somehow the influence of melancholy and longing was gone; every move and every stance he made was the same as in the past but the power of it was greatly diminished.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong saw Yang Guo's battle against Fawang and saw him being injured; unfortunately they could not rush over to help him. Huang Rong suddenly thought of something and took Yelu Qi's sword and gave it to Guo Jing. She said loudly, "Shoot it over to Guo’er." Guo Jing took the sword and used two iron bows and placed the sword in between. He aimed and shot the sword towards Yang Guo. A bright flash seared through the sky and a loud whooshing sound was heard.

Yang Guo heard the whooshing sound and used his right sleeve to curl around the sword and immediately used his left hand to wield it. He thrust the sword through the two wheels of Fawang. Fawang twisted his wheels and the sword was broken again. Everyone saw what happened and was stunned.

Yang Guo knew it was in vain; he could not rescue Guo Xiang by himself. He would probably die here as well. He looked tragically at Xiao Longnu and said, "Long’er, farewell. Take care..." At this moment Fawang used his iron wheel to advance forward, wanting to strike Yang Guo on the skull. Yang Guo had given up all hope; he casually whisked his sleeve and struck out his palm and it smashed Fawang directly on the shoulder.

Zhou Botong who was standing below shouted, "Good! That’s one very impressive ‘Entangled by the Web of Love’." Yang Guo was stunned for a moment and then he realized he was feeling lost and hopeless and he unintentionally used the stance “Entangled by the Web of Love”. The heart is the most important factor of this style - it commands the arm and the arm commands the palm. That day, in the “Hundred Flowers Valley”, Zhou Botong did not feel sadness and melancholy and therefore he could not grasp the essence behind this style. When Yang Guo was reunited with Xiao Longnu, this style lost its essence. When Yang Guo faced death and parting with Xiao Longnu the sorrow and melancholy suddenly surged forth in his heart and immediately boosted the power of the “Melancholic Sad Palms”.

Fawang was about to be victorious when, suddenly, he was hit on the shoulder. His chest hurt greatly and he trembled. He was furious and surprised and instantly attacked again.

Yang Guo backed away and retaliated with “In A State Of Disunity”, “Irrational Direction”, “The Settled Cessation” and another move quickly followed these three attacks. It was the “The Meaningless Wanderer”. This stance was a kick, but it was a most elusive attack. Fawang could only vaguely see a leg; it was there, but it was not. He could not avoid this kick and he suffered a heavy blow to his chest. He coughed up blood and fell. Both armies yelled, the Song yelled with joy and the Mongolians called out in surprise.

Note: Here we present the original and the third [final?] edition versions of the end of Yang Guo and Jinlun Fawang’s battle.

1st /  2nd Edition:

By now the tower was crumbling and Yang Guo knew he had no time to untie Guo Xiang, so he quickly smashed the pole she was tied to and carrying everything – girl, pole and all - jumped off the tower. The Divine Eagle jumped up and they landed on its back. They landed safely only just in time. The tower came crashing down.

Fawang was kicked off the platform and was injured but not fatally. He swallowed his pain and rolled away, wanting to get up. Suddenly someone laughed and jumped onto his back. He was pinned to the ground and it seemed like a thousand needles pierced through him. It was Zhou Botong and his Soft Armour was like a porcupine. Fawang was severely injured and he could not move. The tower collapsed and, as Zhou Botong leapt away, a huge beam struck Fawang on his back.

Huang Rong saw that her daughter had escaped death and was filled with emotions. She was very grateful towards Yang Guo and was willing to die for him. She quickly ran forward and cut the ropes. Guo Jing, Yideng, Huang Yaoshi and Yelu Qi were all greatly impressed.

3rd Edition Ending:

The platform shook greatly now and was about to collapse. If it collapsed entirely now Guo Xiang was bound to die. Suddenly, Fawang found his benevolence again and he leapt up and cut the ropes tying Guo Xiang using his iron wheel. He took her in his arms and said to her, "Call me Master one more time." Guo Xiang looked up and saw tears in his eyes. She called loudly, "Master!"

Fawang shouted, "Yang Guo, catch her!"

Yang Guo saw Fawang throwing Guo Xiang to him and used his sleeve to catch her and his left arm to support her. He jumped down with her. The Divine Eagle spread its' wings and leaped up; although it could not fly it could leap about 3 or 4 meters into the air. Guo Xiang and Yang Guo landed on the back of the eagle and were descended on it. At this time the platform was collapsing and the Eagle could not deal with the weight of two persons and fell down. Yang Guo gently pushed Guo Xiang aside and said, "Watch out!"

Guo Xiang performed the technique “The Flying Swallow Circling Away” and touched down. Seeing she was close to being safe, Huang Rong screamed, "Dodge! Faster!"

A heavy burning beam came crashing down towards her. Guo Xiang was shocked and fell down. Huang Rong and Yang Guo wanted to rush over to rescue her but they were too far away. Furthermore, they were blocked by Mongolian soldiers. Seeing that it was too late Huang Rong fainted.

Guo Xiang had her hands on the ground and wanted to leap away again, but she was trapped by the fiery beam. Her clothes were on fire too and the smoke was choking her. She closed her eyes and awaited death. Suddenly she heard someone landing next to her; she opened her eyes and saw Fawang. He was kneeling down on one knee and using his hands to lift the heavy, burning beam. He generated a large force from his “Dragon Elephant Wisdom Dexterity” and hurled the beam away.

Although the beam was very heavy his “Dragon Elephant Wisdom Dexterity” was awesome and he generated every bit of his remaining incredible internal strength. The beam flew into the sky like a red blazing dragon. Both Song and Mongol soldiers looked up. The Mongolian soldiers ran away fearing that the beam would land on them. A gap appeared in their formation and Yang Guo helped Huang Rong up and dashed forward.

Guo Xiang escaped from death and was helping Fawang up. She was calling, "Master, Master!"

Fawang opened his eyes and said, "Good, good! I have finally managed to convince you..." He coughed up blood and could not finish talking. His blood splattered on Guo Xiang's clothes and she saw pieces of the platform falling down on them. She tried her best to lift Fawang and move him to safety. Yang Guo saw that she could not lift Fawang and helped her to drag him away from the falling debris. Fawang kept coughing up blood and looked at Guo Xiang; he smiled and closed his eyes for the final time. Guo Xiang embraced his body and was devastated, she cried, "Master, Master!"

Yang Guo saw Fawang sacrificing his own life to save Guo Xiang. In doing so, Fawang earned his respect and he bowed to the body.

Huang Rong saw her beloved daughter safe again, she hugged her and tears of joy flowed freely. She was most thankful toward Yang Guo and Fawang. Guo Jing, Huang Yaoshi and Reverend Yideng were also touched by the actions of Fawang and were also very grateful to him.

End of Excerpts

The Mongol soldiers saw that their commander was dead and they were thrown into great chaos. The five divisions attacked them again and this time they were totally defeated.

Guo Jing waved and shouted, “Let’s go back and save Xiangyang, then kill their Khan!” The Song army cheered and turned around and charged towards the Mongol troops attacking the city.

Xiao Longnu tore off some cloth and dressed Yang Guo’s wound. Her hands were trembling and she could not speak. Yang Guo smiled, “You suffered more from your worries than I from the fight.”

The Song troops gave a thunderous yell and formed up into five divisions again and attacked the Mongol army. Yang Guo saw that the enemy was orderly and unyielding and they outnumbered the Song army many times. Although the Song army attacked them like mighty waves, they still could not move the enemy.

Yang Guo shouted, “The scum of a Khan isn’t dead yet and the enemy isn’t defeated yet. Let’s fight again. Are you tired?” He spoke the last few words gently and softly. Xiao Longnu just smiled and said, “You say go then we’ll go.”

Then they heard a young girl say, “Sister-in-law, you’re ravishing.” It was Guo Xiang.

Xiao Longnu turned around and laughed, “Sister thanks you for praying for our reunion. Your  brother praised you and dragged me to Xiangyang to meet you.”

Guo Xiang sighed, “Only you are worthy of him.”

Xiao Longnu took her hand and was very friendly to her. Xiao Longnu was usually cold and indifferent to everyone, but since Yang Guo heaped praise on Guo Xiang and told how she jumped off the cliff to make him promise not to commit suicide, Xiao Longnu treated her differently.

Yang Guo ran past some stray horses and said, “I’ll cut a way through. Let’s go together!” He hopped onto the horse and rode off. Xiao Longnu and Guo Xiang took a horse each and followed behind. The three of them galloped south and saw several hundred Mongol soldiers setting up the ladders at the south gate and climbing up like ants.

The three of them got onto a small hill and looked around and saw a few thousand Mongol  troops surrounding Yelu Qi and his three hundred men. The Mongolians used long spears and chopped down on Yelu Qi’s cavalry. Guo Fu led a company and attempted to rescue him but was blocked by two thousand Mongol troops. The couple longed for each other from afar but could not meet. Guo Fu saw that  her husband’s troops were decreasing rapidly and her heart  sank  as  she  knew  that  once  surrounded  by  a large army, even a highly skilled martial artist could do nothing.

Yang Guo said, “Guo Fu, if you kowtow to me three times I will rescue your husband.” Because of Guo Fu’s proud, overbearing and obnoxious behavior, she would rather die than kowtow to him and admit his superiority. But now, seeing that her husband was in grave danger, she did not hesitate and immediately got off her horse and fell to her knees, knocking her head on the ground.

Yang Guo was shocked and quickly dragged her up. He regretted saying that and said, “I’m just teasing you, don’t mind me. Brother Yelu and I are close friends, how can I ignore his plight?” He jumped from the hill and gathered as many horses as he could and formed them up in two rows. He mounted a horse and held all the reins in one hand, yelling and charging into the enemy’s formation.

Yang Guo’s two rows of horses followed the “Multiple Horse Formation” originated in the Song army. However the horses were not trained in this and did not move in a straight path and followed Yang Guo only because he held on to the reins tightly. They galloped through the formation and Yang Guo utilized his advanced qing gong (lightness skill) and was jumping back  and  forth  on  the  horses’  backs.  The Mongols had never seen such an awesome riding skill before and their lack of reaction allowed Yang Guo to pass through their formation without resistance. Yang Guo grabbed a large banner and fastened it on one of the saddles.

The Mongol soldiers shouted and tried to block him but Yang Guo swept the banner and knocked three officers down from their horses. He saw that Yelu Qi was just a few meters away and shouted, “Brother Yelu, jump up!” He thrust out the banner and Yelu Qi jumped, landing on the banner. He mounted a horse and the two of them broke out of the encirclement together.

Yelu Qi panted and said, “Brother Yang, thanks for saving me, but my subordinates are still trapped and I don’t want to desert them.” Yang Guo was moved and said, “You go grab a big banner too.” Then he set both banners on fire. Yelu Qi said, “Brilliant!” He went forward and snatched a banner and lit it against Yang Guo’s banner. They shouted and charged into the enemy lines, waving the flaming banners about.

The two flaming banners flying around struck fear in the enemy troops. All those who went forward to stop them suffered serious burns. The tide was turning and the Mongol troops had no choice but to retreat. Yelu Qi’s battalion had only about seventy people left and they all charged together, finally managing to break out of the encirclement. Yelu Qi assembled the remnants of his soldiers and took them up a mountain to rest.

Guo Fu went up to Yang Guo and bowed lowly to him, saying, “Brother Yang, I’ve caused trouble for you my whole life but you’re open-minded and magnanimous. You returned my resentment with benevolence, saving…” Her voice became hoarse and she could not continue. Yang Guo had saved her life several times in the past and knew she owed him a debt of gratitude. But she had always loathed him, thinking that he was always eager to show off his martial arts and did not really intend to save her. Only now, when he saved her husband, she felt truly grateful and realized her past mistakes.

Yang Guo hastily returned the bow and said, “Sister Fu, we grew up together, although we quarreled a lot, we’ve always been as close as siblings. If you no longer hate me or despise me I will be very happy.”

Guo Fu was stunned and the past events flashed past in her mind. She thought, “Do I really hate him? The Wu brothers were always trying to gain my favour but he never bothered about me. If he had treated me better I would have been willing to die for him. Why did I hate him without any reason for so many years? Is it because I always think of him and miss him but he’d never paid any attention to me?”

For the past twenty years, even she did not understand her own heart and always treated him like her enemy. Deep in her heart she actually had deep feelings for him. But Yang Guo could not understand her; even she could not understand herself.

Now her hate was gone she suddenly realized that she was actually very concerned about him. She thought, “When he charged into the enemy formation to save Brother Qi, who did I worry for more? I really cannot say.” At this time the clash of the ongoing fierce battle could be heard and she suddenly understood herself, “When he gave Sister Xiang such great presents on her birthday, why did I hate him to the bones? Guo Fu, ah Guo Fu, you’re jealous of your own little sister! He treated Sister Xiang so well but didn’t even acknowledge your presence.”

While she was lost in thought about this, her anger flared up again and she stared hard at Yang Guo and Guo Xiang. Then she woke up, thinking, “Why do I still care about all this? I’m a married woman now and Brother Qi treats me so well!” She gave a long sigh. Although she did not lack for anything since she was young, deep in her heart she felt a strange void. She always got whatever she wanted but could never get what she really desired most. In her whole life she did not know why she was always so hot-tempered and why she was always sulking when everyone was happy.

Guo Fu’s face flushed red and then paled white as she thought about her heart’s affairs. However Yang Guo, Xiao Longnu, Guo Xiang and Yelu Qi were all observing the ongoing battle at Xiangyang. The front line soldiers had already scaled the city wall. Guo Jing and Huang Yaoshi’s army attacked their flank heavily but the Mongol army was too large and their formation remained intact. The Khan directed all his forces to attack the city and the defenders inside were getting more disorderly and could not hold the enemy much longer. Guo Xiang anxiously cried, “Brother, what do we do? What do we do?”

Yang Guo thought, “I’m fortunate enough to see Long’er again and Heaven has been very kind to me. Even if I die today I wouldn’t regret it. Dying for one’s country is the greatest honour for a true hero.” He became alert and said, “Brother Yelu, let’s fight the enemy again.” Yelu Qi said, “Nothing could be better.” Xiao Longnu and Guo Xiang also said, “Let’s go!” Yang Guo said, “OK! I’ll lead and you will wield long spears and follow behind.” Yelu Qi relayed the command to his company and everyone grabbed a few spears.

Yang Guo took a spear and jumped onto a horse, galloping off with the Divine Eagle running at his side and using its wings to deflect any incoming arrows. Xiao Longnu, Yelu Qi, Guo Fu and Guo Xiang followed closely behind. Yang Guo dashed straight to the Khan’s banner. Yelu Qi was shocked and thought since the Khan was personally commanding the attack, all his  elite  guards  must  be  there  protecting  him.  There were only about a hundred Song soldiers with them –  this was suicide. Then he remembered his life was saved by Yang Guo and he would follow him to the ends of the Earth.

This company moved extremely fast and reached Xiangyang city in the blink of an eye. Mengke’s (The Khan) guards saw Yang Guo coming swiftly and fiercely towards them and so they sent two hundred men ahead to stop him. Yang Guo threw his spear and it pierced right through a company commander’s chest. He took a spear from Yelu Qi and killed the other company commander. The Mongol guards panicked and Yang Guo tore through their formation. All the soldiers were alarmed and held their weapons tightly and swarmed forward to block him. He threw a spear at every man he saw and killed them instantly. His left arm’s superhuman strength was developed when he trained against the mighty waves of the sea. The spears he threw could pierce rocks; obviously it could fly through flesh and blood. Every throw of his was aimed at an officer and he threw seventeen spears, all penetrating the officers’ armour and killing them.

This sudden attack was like a bolt from the blue and the legions of Mongol troops at the foot of Xiangyang city could not stop him. He shot right through their formation and came right up to the Khan himself.

Mengke’s guards dashed forward to block him, disregarding their own lives. A body of armored guards rushed together and formed a wall in front of the Khan. Yang Guo reached out to take a spear from Yelu Qi but he grabbed thin air. The spear had been knocked away by some Mongol warrior. The Khan’s face turned as white as sheet and he immediately rode off. Yang Guo shouted, stepped up on the horse’s back, then threw himself forward. Some Mongol soldiers thrust their spears toward him desperately, but Yang Guo somersaulted in mid-air and used his internal strength to snatch all their spears away.

The Khan saw the situation was very dangerous and quickly whipped his horse and galloped away. The horse he was riding was hand-picked from the best horses of the Mongolian stables and was swift as a dragon and could fly like the wind. It was nicknamed the ‘Flying Cloud Horse’ and was superior to Guo Jing’s ‘Sweating Blood Horse’. The horse flew on the plains and Yang Guo, using his qing gong, tried to chase him. The Mongol troops behind hurriedly pursued Yang Guo.

All the soldiers, on both sides, saw this and everyone just stopped fighting to watch what would happen next.

Yang Guo saw the Khan riding away and was happy, thinking he could catch up with him. However this ‘Flying Cloud Horse’ was extremely fast and seemed to be gliding along on the plains. Yang Guo was getting more anxious as the Khan got further away from him. He quickly bent down to pick up a spear and threw it at the Khan.

The spear flew like a meteor and everyone held  their  breath  in  anticipation.  The  horse  galloped  even faster and just as the spear was about to hit the Khan it lost its propulsive force and stuck into the ground. The Song army cursed while the Mongol army cheered.

Now Guo Jing, Huang Rong, Huang Yaoshi, Zhou Botong and the others were too far away and could only stare in desperation. The Mongol army had tens of thousands of troops but they could only cheer the Khan on as they could not catch up with his horse.

Mengke looked back and saw Yang Guo getting further and further behind him and was less worried and quickly rode towards a legion. The legion cheered and came forward to welcome him. If he reached them, even with Yang Guo’s skills he would be no match for an entire legion.

Yang Guo was starting to despair when he suddenly thought, “The spear is too heavy and can’t go that far, why not use a stone?” He leaned over and picked up two stones and shot them out forcefully with his internal strength. The stones cut through the air like bullets and they hit the horse on the back. The horse neighed in pain and reared up, throwing its rider into the air.

Although Mengke (Meng-ge) was the emperor of the Mongolians, he had ridden horses and trained in archery since he was young, just like Genghis Khan and his father. He conquered the European territories on horse-back. Though he was thrown into the air, he did not panic and steadied himself back on the horse. He grabbed a bow and hooked his legs firmly onto the horse. He then turned his body and shot an arrow at Yang Guo.

Yang Guo ducked and quickly picked up a larger stone and shot it out with all his strength. The stone flew like a missile, ripped through the Khan and emerged from his chest, shattering on impact. The Khan’s organs were crushed and he fell off his horse dead.

The Mongol army saw their Khan fall from the horse and they were stunned. Guo Jing immediately gave the command to counter-attack and all the Song troops rushed out from the city. The Song troops formed up in the “Twenty-eight Star Formation” again and attacked the Mongol army. The Mongol army was now in total chaos and they fled without their weapons and trampled one another trying to retreat. The countless Mongol dead lay scattered throughout the plains and the remnants scurried north.

Guo Jing and the Song army pursued them, then suddenly they saw a Mongol army appear in the west and its formation was orderly. The main banner bore the insignia of Khubilai. Both Guo Jing and Khubilai knew something was wrong. Guo Jing knew the fleeing soldiers  could  not  have  re-grouped  so  fast,  while Khubilai knew something had happened to the Khan’s army. Khubilai quickly ordered a withdrawal. Guo Jing and the Song army pursued them for 30 li but could not catch up. Moreover Lu Wenhuan had sent his officials to summon Guo Jing back to the city. The Song army withdrew as well.

Ever since the Mongols opened the campaign with the Song Empire, they had never suffered such  a disastrous defeat – they even lost their Khan in the battle. The Khan did not appoint an heir before his death and all the generals vied for the Khan’s position. Khubilai ordered his army back north. He then battled his brothers for the position. Finally, Khubilai emerged as the victor in the civil war and became Khubilai Khan. However after the civil war the Mongols did not have the resources to launch  another invasion on the Song Empire. Xiangyang would be safe from the Mongolians until they launched another campaign thirteen years later.

Guo Jing led the army back to Xiangyang and Lu Wenhuan was waiting at the city gate with the remaining soldiers, welcoming the return of the victors. The citizens of Xiangyang also came out to welcome them with wine.

Guo Jing took Yang Guo’s hand and raised a cup of good wine and offered a toast to him, saying, “Guo’er, you did such a great thing today; from now everyone shall revere and respect you.”

Yang Guo was touched and finally said something he had wanted to say for the past 20 years: “Uncle Guo, my accomplishments today are all due to your guidance.”

The two heroes said no more and drank the wine, thinking there was nothing more they could desire. They entered the city together and the citizens welcomed them with thunderous applause. Yang Guo thought, “More than twenty years ago, Guo Jing took my hand and brought me to Zhongnan Shan (Mount Zhongnan) and sent me to the Chongyang Palace to learn martial arts. He was completely sincere and honest towards me, yet I rebelled against my teacher and created a lot of trouble! If I hadn’t corrected myself, how would I be what I am today?” He was extremely satisfied with himself.

The city was in a joyous mood even though many had lost their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons; but because of them their victory was complete.

Night fell and a large banquet was thrown for the heroes. Lu Wenhuan wanted Yang Guo to be the Guest- of-Honour but he refused flatly. Everyone pushed each other for a long time and they finally persuaded Yideng to be the Guest-of-Honour. Seated next to him was Zhou Botong, followed by Huang Yaoshi, Guo Jing, Huang Rong, Yang Guo, Xiao Longnu and Yelu Qi. Lu Wenhuan thought, “Island Master Huang is Hero Guo’s father-in-law but that old monk Yideng’s appearance is not remarkable while that old man Zhou is crazy and silly, how can either of them be the Guest-of-Honour?” However everyone was overjoyed and ignored him.

All the generals and officials took turns offering toasts to Guo Jing and Yang Guo and praised them as heroes of the highest order.

Guo Jing then thought of his master’s kindness and said, “If not for Quanzhen’s Priest Qiu’s righteousness and my seven masters who went to Mongolia to teach me martial arts, and not to forget Master Hong, how would I be so highly-skilled today? But as we indulge in wine today, all my masters with the exception of Master Ke are already dead.” Everyone felt rather sad. Guo Jing continued, “Now we have won the day, I would like to ascend Mount Hua (Hua Shan) tomorrow and visit my master’s grave.” Yang Guo said, “Uncle Guo, I was thinking of this too; why don’t we all go together?” Yideng, Huang Yaoshi and Zhou Botong all missed their old friend and so they agreed.

The banquet lasted late into the night before ending.

End of Chapter 39. 
@Chapter 40 – The Summit of Hua Shan
Early the next morning Guo Jing and the others quietly left Xiangyang through the north gate for Mount Hua (Hua Shan). They avoided the troops and the people’s festive farewell. They walked slowly since Zhou Botong, Lu Wushuang, the Wu Brothers and the Fisherman (Secret Fisherman from Si Shui ‘si shui yu yin’) still had not recovered from their injuries. They covered only about 10 li everyday.

By the time they arrived at Mount Hua, those who were injured had recovered. Yang Guo showed them Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng’s graves, which were side by side. Huang Rong had purchased chicken, vegetables and other supplies. She lit a fire and prepared the food just as Hong Qigong liked  it,  as  a memorial to him. Immediately they performed the ritual ceremony.

Guo Jing did not want to show respect toward Ouyang Feng’s grave. He still remembered how his five masters died by the Western Poison’s hands. True, it had been decades ago, but he could not forget it. Yang Guo was different. Together with Xiao Longnu they knelt in front of Ouyang’s grave. Zhou Botong only clasped his fists in front of the grave and said, “Old Poison, Old Poison! You committed countless crimes in your lifetime. And after you died, your grave is right next to the Old Beggar’s. I’d say you are very lucky! Today everybody else is kneeling in front of the Old Beggar, except these two kids. If you knew this, you would probably regret your ruthlessness!”

Everybody was amused to hear the Old Urchin’s (Lao Wan Tong) jabbering.

They were about to eat dinner after the ceremony when suddenly they heard distant sounds of weapons clashing and people cursing. Zhou Botong was always ready to have fun. He was the first to run toward the battle sound. The others followed behind.

After a couple of bends the path led them to a plateau. There they saw about thirty or forty people battling each other. Some were short, some were tall, some were old, some were young, and there were priests, monks, men and women. They did not pay any attention to the newcomers. Perhaps they thought these newcomers were tourists or pilgrims.

“Ladies and Gentlemen hold on a moment!” a big burly man shouted. “Fighting chaotically like this will not determine who will be the ‘Number One Valiant Hero under Heaven’. Let us take turns fighting. Whoever wins last shall hold the title.”

“That’s right!” said a priest with long whiskers. “There were Sword Meets on Mount Hua in the past. Why don’t we do the same? Let us see who will win.” That proposition was unanimously accepted.

“All right, who will go first?” Several people stepped forward.

Botong and the others looked on. They did not know who these people were.

When the first Swords Meet on Mount Hua was held, Guo Jing  was  not  even  born  yet.  The  Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity were fighting for the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. In the end the Central Divinity won the title of ‘Number One  Valiant  Hero  under Heaven’.

The second Swords Meet on Mount Hua was held twenty years later. Wang Chongyang, the Central Divinity had passed away by then. Eastern Heretic, Western Poison and Northern Beggar, Zhou Botong, Qiu Qianren and Guo Jing all attended. This time there was no clear winner. Who would have guessed that after decades there would be a third Swords Meet on Mount Hua, with unknown people as contestants? Therefore, Huang Yaoshi and the others were bewildered. Could the saying be true: “The later waves of the Chongjiang River always push the previous ones? The newer generation is competent to gain victory over the older one.” Could it be that they, Huang Yaoshi and the others, were like ‘a frog at the bottom of the well’ and were ignorant of ‘heaven above a heaven’, ‘people above the others’?

They saw six people fight in three pairs. As soon as they fought, Huang Yaoshi and the others began laughing; even the composed Reverend Yideng smiled. We don’t need to compare them with the experts; they were far inferior even to Guo Fu or Guo Xiang.

Hearing the laugh, the six people stopped the fight, leaped back and somebody barked, “You’re a reckless bunch! Your masters are having a contest here, and you are laughing? Go away, we may show mercy to you!”

Yang Guo laughed and whistled loudly. His voice echoed throughout the valley. Those people were shocked, and they were frightened to death. They threw away their weapons, and then they scrambled away.

“Ladies and Gentlemen … Please!” Yang Guo shouted. The people looked up, screamed and ran away. Somebody shouted indistinctly, “Go! Go away quickly! That was the Eagle Hero!” A moment later the plateau was empty.  Cheng  Ying,  Guo  Fu  and  the  others chuckled.

“There are useless people out there, but I couldn’t have dreamed they would dare hold a Swords Meet on Mount Hua,” Huang Yaoshi sighed.

“There were Five Experts,” said Zhou Botong. “With the death of Western Poison, Northern Beggar and the Central Divinity, who could take their places?”

Five Experts Zhou Botong referred to were: Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and Central Divinity. Among them only Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi and Southern Emperor Reverend Yideng were left.

Huang Rong chuckled, she said, “Reverend Yideng and my father have always improved their skills. Therefore, they were among the Five Experts then, they should be now. Frankly speaking, my husband has inherited Northern Beggar’s skills; he is one of the Experts. Guo’Er is young, but his martial arts are extraordinary. He is unmatched in his generation, plus he is Ouyang Feng’s adopted son. Therefore, he deserves to be one of the Experts so he inherits Western Poison’s title.”

Hearing her Zhou Botong shook his head. “No, no it’s not right!” he said. “Why not?” Huang Rong asked.

“Because Western Poison was venomous, while this kid Yang Guo is not! We dare not call him ‘Western Poison’?”

“Well, Brother Jing is not a beggar!” Huang Rong laughed, “While Reverend Yideng is not an emperor anymore. I think we’d better modify their titles a little bit. Father is the Eastern Heretic. It is a trademark; no modification is necessary. Reverend Yideng has become a monk; let us call him the Southern Monk. Now, about Guo’Er, I’d like to propose a title, ‘Passionate Hero’. How’s that sound?”

Huang Yaoshi was the first to say: The “Eastern Heretic” and “Western Passionate Hero, the old and young. Yes! This is a good title.”

“Pardon me,” said Yang Guo, “I am too young, I do not dare to be compared with the Seniors …”

“Ha-ha... Little Brother!” said Huang Yaoshi. “You are wrong! You are called ‘Passionate Hero, why can’t we act it out for a moment? Besides, your name, your skills, don’t they exceed those of the Old Urchin?”

Huang Yaoshi understood Huang Rong’s intention. She did not mention the Old Urchin’s name to provoke him. Yang Guo also understood the father and daughter’s intention. He exchanged glances with Xiao Longnu; they both laughed. He thought, “These words ‘Passionate Hero’ is so appropriate …”

“Southern Monk and Western Passionate Hero have been settled. How about the Northern Beggar?” asked Botong.

“I propose the word ‘Hero’, hence the Northern Hero,” said Zhu Ziliu. “The valiant people of this era call Brother Guo Jing as Great Hero Guo [Guo Da Xia]. He did a great service for his country. He has defended Xiangyang for decades; he protects the people and secured the peace. His valor is superior to Zhu Qi or Guo Gai of yesteryear. I believe it is very appropriate to call him the ‘Northern Hero’.”

“Agreed!” Reverend Yideng, Wu Santong and the others voiced their support.

“Eastern Heretic and Western Passionate Hero, Southern Monk and Northern Hero, we have four experts,” said Huang Yaoshi, “What about the Central? Who deserves to hold the title?” He cast a glance at Botong, but he continued, “Madam Yang is the only heir of the Ancient Tomb Sect [Gu Mu Bai]. I reckon it is appropriate for her to hold the title! When she was still alive, Heroine Lin Chaoying roamed Jianghu; even Wang Chongyang held her in the highest regard. Who does not know the “Jade Maiden Swordplay” from the Ancient Tomb Sect? If Heroine Lin Chaoying attended the Swords Meet at Mount Hua, not only the titles of the ‘Five Experts’ would have changed, but the title ‘Number One Valiant Person under the Heaven’ would be hers. Yang Guo’s skill was acquired from his wife. If the disciple is one of the experts, can we question the master? Therefore, Madam Yang deserves to hold the Central position in place of the Central Divinity!”

Xiao Longnu laughed. “I really don’t deserve it,” she said.

“If not, Huang Rong should be one of the experts,” Huang Yaoshi continued. “She is still inferior in terms of martial arts skill, but she is intelligent and smart. Wasn’t there a saying: ‘brain over brawn’?”

“Good, good!” Botong clapped his hands. “What is Eastern Heretic? What is Great Hero Guo? I am not happy will all those names. This little girl Huang Rong is different. She is so smart. I, the Old Urchin, got a headache whenever I dealt with her. My limbs are weak, I cannot move! She should become one of the Five Experts; nobody deserves it more!”

Hearing him, everybody was amazed and impressed. They knew Zhou Botong liked to fool around but he had a big heart. Others deliberately did not mention his name to provoke him. Who knew he was really naïve? He did not have any intentions to boss anybody about; he did not desire fame.

“Old Urchin, you are great!” said Huang Yaoshi. “For me fame is nothing. For Reverend Yideng, it is emptiness. You are not like that. Your heart is free. You are superior to us all. Because we have already had Eastern Heretic and Western Passionate Hero, Southern Monk and Northern Hero, you should hold the Central position, you are the Central Urchin!”

Huang Yaoshi’s speech was applauded by loud cheering and clapping. Everybody was happy; the Five Experts had been decided. They scattered around Mount Hua sightseeing.

Yang Guo pointed to the Jade Maiden Peak. “Our sword technique is called “Jade Maiden Swordplay”. We cannot miss a visit to the peak,” he said to Xiao Longnu.

“That’s true,” answered his wife. Holding hands they climbed to the peak.

On the peak there was a small temple with a statue of a horse next to it. It was the Jade Maiden Temple. Inside the temple was a big rock - its center was hollow. It contained clear water. Yang Guo had climbed Mount Hua before, and Hong Qigong had explained to him the points of interest on the mountain. He pointed to the rock and told Xiao Longnu, “This is the water basin of the Jade Maiden. This clear water never dries up.” Xiao Longnu nodded. “Let us go to the hall to pay our respect to the Jade Maiden,” she said.

Yang Guo complied. They went to the hall. There was a statue of a very beautiful woman. She looked so dignified. What amazed them was that the face of the statue bore a close resemblance to the picture of Lin Chaoying inside the Ancient Tomb.

“Could it be that the Jade Maiden is actually our Grand Martial Master?” asked the wife.

“Very possible,” answered Yang Guo. “Grand Martial Master Lin liked to wander around. She helped many people. It could be that some people remembered her kindness and built this temple.”

“That’s right. If it was a Jade Maiden temple, how could there be a horse statue here? Looks like Grand Martial Master roamed around riding a horse.”

The two of them then knelt in front of the altar. They prayed silently for protection and happiness as husband and wife.

They heard footsteps coming near from outside. They turned their heads and saw Guo Xiang.

“Little Sister, let us look around together!” Yang Guo was delighted. “Oh yes!” answered Guo Xiang.

Xiao Longnu held her hand and together they left the hall. They followed a stone corridor and climbed to a big cave. Guo Xiang looked inside; she felt cold breeze coming from the cave and she shivered. The cave was like a deep well; one could not see its bottom. It was different from the gorge at the Passionless Valley, which was covered by heavy fog so that nobody could see the bottom. This cave was almost vertical as far as the eye could see and made people looking down feel very nervous.

“Be careful,” Xiao Longnu warned her, holding her hand.

“I heard the water from this cave flows to the Yellow River [Huang He],” said Yang Guo. “It is one of the eight Water Palaces in China. During the Tang Dynasty there was a drought  in  northern  China.  The Emperor Tang Xuan Zong wrote a letter to Heaven, asking for rain. He threw the letter down into this cave.”

“From here flowing to the Yellow River, how peculiar!” said Guo Xiang.

“Well, it was a legend!” Yang Guo chuckled. “Nobody has ever gone down into this cave. Who could prove it?”

“When the Emperor Tang Zong threw his jade board letter, did Concubine Yang stand next to him?” asked Guo Xiang. “Did it really rain?”

Yang Guo laughed. “How can I answer your question?” he said, “Whether it rained or not, that was the Heaven’s decision. Even an emperor could not force its will …”

Guo Xiang looked at the cave, she softly said, “That’s true, even an emperor could not have everything his heart desires …”

Yang Guo was amazed to hear her say that. “This girl is still young, but she is mature,” he thought. “I must try to make her happy.” He was going to open his mouth when suddenly Xiao Longnu said, “Ah, who’s that coming our way?” She pointed her finger.

Yang Guo turned around. Below the steps there were two people stealthily creeping nearer. Xiao Longnu’s eyes were really sharp; she could see them in the dim light of dusk.

“Their skills are not bad,” said Yang Guo softly, “Judging from their movements, they must have some ulterior motive. Let’s hide and see what’s going on.”

Xiao Longnu and Guo Xiang complied. They hid behind a big rock next to a big tree. Not too long after they could hear footsteps approaching. It was evening and the moon had risen.

Guo Xiang stood next to Xiao Longnu. She did not care about those two men, she looked at Yang Guo and thought in her heart, “If only I could be like this forever. Being with Big Brother and Sister Long, I would desire nothing else …” She wanted the time to stand still …

Xiao Longnu inadvertently looked toward her direction and she saw tears welling up in her eyes; she was puzzled. She thought, “This is strange, what is she thinking about? I’ll talk with my husband later and see what we can do to make her happy.”

Meanwhile those two men had reached the peak, where they hid themselves behind a big rock. After some time one of them said, “Brother Xiaoxiang, Mount Hua has so many thick forests where we can hide. I think even though that bald donkey [derogatory term for Buddhist monks] is good, he won’t be able to find us here. Let’s just stay here for a few days, and then we can go farther west.”

Yang Guo could not see the speaker, but he guessed it was Yin Kexi and his companion must be Xiaoxiang Zi. Yang Guo thought, “Among the martial arts experts in the Mongolian camp,  Jinlun  Fawang  and Nimoxing have died. Da’erba and Ma Guangzuo were not that bad. Only Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi were left. I have shown them mercy, but looks like they didn’t repent. I wonder what they are up to?”

“Don’t be happy yet, Brother Yin,” said Xiaoxiang Zi, his voice eerie. “If the baldheaded donkey can not find us, he might guard the mountain’s entrance. If we are not careful, he will certainly find us …”

“Brother Xiaoxiang is right. What is your thought?”

“There are so many temples scattered around this mountain. I think we’d better find the most remote one. No matter if the priests are Taoists or Buddhists, we kill them, we take over their temple and then we stay there. That bald donkey will not wait for us forever. Maybe months or years, but in the end he’ll have to leave.”

“Great idea Brother Xiaoxiang!” said Yin Kexi, his voice loud from excitement. “Hush!” Xiaoxiang Zi reminded him.

“Uh, I was too excited,” said Yin Kexi apologetically. Then the two of them talked in low voice that Yang Guo wasn’t able to hear.

“I wonder who the monk is,” Yang Guo thought. “These two are experts, yet they are afraid of him. Actually, other than Island Master Huang, Reverend Yideng, Uncle Guo and their peers, these two are already unmatched. Why would someone want to capture them? No, I can’t let them go. Didn’t they say they are going to kill people and take over their temple?”

At that time Guo Fu was calling from a distance, “Brother Yang, Sister-in-law! Sister Xiang! Come and have dinner!” She repeated her calls a couple more times.

Yang Guo turned to his wife and Guo Xiang, signaling them not to make any noise.

After a while Guo Fu was gone. But from the mountain they heard a shout, “Book thief! Show yourself!” That voice was loud and powerful. It was a sign of strong internal energy. Yang Guo was astonished, the voice was not inferior to his. He wondered, “How come there is an expert I do not know?”

By moving his body a little bit, Yang Guo was able to see the source of the voice. He saw a grey shadow running lightning fast toward the hill where they were. Very soon he could see that the shadow was actually two people: a grey-robed monk holding a youngster’s hand.

Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi had already hidden themselves amongst the tall grasses. They did not dare to breathe.

Yang Guo kept staring, he thought, “In terms of lightness kungfu, he is not superior to Long’er or me, but he is able to carry someone on this difficult path. His strength is comparable to Reverend Yideng and Uncle Guo. How come I’ve never heard of him?”

Very soon the monk arrived at the top. His eyes gazed around him, but he didn’t see Yin Kexi or Xiaoxiang Zi. A moment later he dragged the youngster west.

“Hey, Reverend!” Guo Xiang suddenly shouted, she could not contain herself. “Reverend, those two people are here!” She was just shutting her mouth when three projectiles flew her way! They were two ‘flying awls’ and a ‘nail of death’.

Yang Guo’s eyes were sharp and he was quick. He waved his sleeve and caught all three projectiles.

Guo Xiang’s internal energy was not too strong; the monk could not hear her. They moved further away. “Big Brother, please go after them!” she said.

Yang Guo did not answer, but he spoke softly, like he was reciting a poem, “If it is meant to be, a distance of a thousand li does not hinder; if it isn’t meant to be, standing face to face yet cannot meet.”

His voice reached far. The monk stopped abruptly, turned his head and said, “Thank you Expert for showing the way!”

Yang Guo responded with similar voice, “Searching until iron shoes wear out yet do not meet; once you see it, it is right in front of your eyes.”

The monk was delighted, pulling along the youngster they came back.

Xiaoxiang Zi and Yin Kexi were very shocked to hear Yang Guo’s voice. They looked at each other and leaped toward the east, running away.

Yang Guo saw them starting to move while the monk was still a distance away. The monk would certainly miss these two criminals no matter how fast he could run. He quickly flicked one of Xiaoxiang Zi’s awls toward them. He didn’t want to take their lives; hence the awl was flying in front of them, to block their way.

The two were shocked; their faces were hot just from the wind of the projectile. They turned around and ran to the north. Yang Guo flicked again, and another projectile flew in front of them, forcing them to turn around once more. By that time the monk had arrived.

Seeing their escape route was blocked, both Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi unsheathed their weapons. They stood shoulder to shoulder. One was wielding a golden dragon whip, the other a wolf-fang staff. Yin Kexi’s jeweled whip was destroyed by Yang Guo at Chongyang Palace; this new whip of his –although inlaid with gold, was inferior to the old one.

The monk looked around. He didn’t see the man who gave him directions. Ignoring those two, he clasped his fists to the air and said, “Little Monk Jueyuan from the Shaolin Temple thanks the Benevolent Sir!”

Yang Guo did not answer immediately. He looked intently at the monk. The monk stood straight, his countenance fresh and ruddy. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was baldheaded and wearing a monk’s robe, he would have looked like a scholar. Compared to him, Huang Yaoshi looked more arrogant and wild, like a scholarly hermit. Zhu Ziliu had a more regal and sophisticated look, like a prime minister. He was about fifty years of age; therefore, Yang Guo did not dare to be disrespectful. He quickly came out and returned the greeting, “Junior Yang Guo pays his respects.” Yang Guo thought in his heart, “The Abbot of the Shaolin Temple, the Head of the Damo Hall, I know them all. Their level is not as high as his, how come I’ve never heard them mentioning his name?”

The monk again paid his respects. He was so polite and scholarly. “It’s an honor for little Monk to make the acquaintance of Benevolent Master Yang!” he said, and then he bade the youngster, “Quickly pay your respects to Benevolent Master Yang!”

The youngster complied; he knelt in front of Yang Guo. Quickly Yang Guo stood him up. In the meantime Xiao Longnu and Guo Xiang had come out. Jueyuan also paid them his respects, which they reciprocated.

Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi were still standing alert, ready to fight, but they were thinking about escaping too. They knew they were no match for these people. Jueyuan alone had frightened them.

Yang Guo said, “About six years ago I was fortunate to receive an invitation from the Shaolin’s Abbot Tianming. I visited Mount Shao Shi and made acquaintance with the Venerable Wuxiang from the Damo Hall and a number of other monks. I gained a lot of knowledge because of that. Wuse from the Luo Han Hall befriended me as well. It seems like the monk was not in the temple at the time, and I was not fortunate enough to make your acquaintance.” By that time the name Eagle Hero was very well known, yet Jueyuan seemed oblivious of him. He said, “Oh, it seems like Benevolent Sir knows Martial Uncle Tianming and both Martial Brothers Wuxiang and Wuse and the others. Little Monk abides in the library and has never left the temple even for a single step. My position is very low; I do not dare to meet any honorable guests, including you, Benefactor Sir …”

Yang Guo was amazed and he thought, “It is true that in this wide world there are many experts. Monk Jueyuan’s skill is very high, yet he hides himself away. It is very possible the people of Shaolin are not aware of his skill; if so, my good friend Wuse would have mentioned him …”

Meanwhile Huang Yaoshi and the others had arrived; they heard Yang Guo and Jueyuan’s shouts earlier and believed something must’ve happened on the peak. Yang Guo immediately introduced everybody to Jueyuan. Strangely, even though Huang Yaoshi, Reverend Yideng, Zhou Botong, Guo Jing and Huang Rong were very well known, he didn’t seem to recognize their names. He simply paid his respects and told the youngster to do the same. Huang Yaoshi and the others automatically noticed the Reverend’s grandeur from the way he moved and talked and couldn’t help but feel deep respect toward him.

Only after all these formalities did Jueyuan turn to Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi. He clasped his fists in respect and said, “Little Monk in is charge of the library. I would be responsible for and even punished if even a sheet of paper is lost. Therefore, I respectfully request you two gentlemen to return the books you borrowed. I will be very grateful to you two.”

Hearing this Yang Guo realized that Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi had stolen books from the Shaolin Monastery’s library. Only he did not know what kind of book would make Jueyuan pursue the thieves this far. Also, he was amazed that Jueyuan was very courteous toward the thieves.

Laughing, Yin Kexi said, “Venerable Monk, you are wrong! We are so grateful that you helped us while we were so unfortunate. How could we repay your kindness by borrowing books from you? We regret that you have made a long journey to find us here. Besides, we are not disciples of Buddhism, why would we borrow some scriptures?”

Yin Kexi was a merchant specializing in jewels; he was very eloquent, hence his words were very reasonable. But Yang Guo knew he must be lying. Both he and Xiaoxiang Zi were criminals. Also, the books they stole must not be any ordinary books. The books must be either a palm techniques or swords play manual. Yang Guo thought talking is a waste of time; it would be best to immobilize them, and then search their bodies. But Jueyuan was very courteous. He turned to Huang Yaoshi and the others and said, “Little Monk is going to lay the case in front of you, please adjudicate for us.”

Guo Xiang was straightforward and impatient, she loudly said, “Elder Monk, these two were hiding here and planning to kill people and take over their temple. They intend to hide themselves from you. Why would they be so afraid if they were innocent?”

“Mercy, mercy,” Jueyuan said. “Benefactor Sirs, you two must repent if indeed you were having that thought.”

Huang Yaoshi and the rest were amused. This Monk was very naïve. Why would he talk like  that  to criminals? On the other hand, Yin Kexi was relieved since Jueyuan obviously did not want to resort to violence; he still had hopes of escaping.

Jueyuan continued, “That day little Monk was inspecting the books in the library. I heard a commotion on the hill behind the temple. I could hear people fighting and some were crying for help. Therefore, I went out to see. There I saw these two gentlemen lying on the ground, being beaten by four Mongolian officers; they were dying. I couldn’t stay silent. I asked those four officers to let them go, and then I took them to my room. Now Benevolent Sirs, did I say anything untrue?”

“No, it was indeed the truth,” answered Yin Kexi. “We are very grateful to the Reverend.”

“Hmm!” Yang Guo intervened, “With your skills, forty or even four hundred Mongolian officers would not be able to harm you, let alone only four! You were deceiving Reverend Jueyuan!”

Jueyuan ignored Yang Guo and continued, “After a day of recuperation they said that they were bored and wanted to borrow something to read. This little Monk thinks that proselytizing is an honorable thing. These two gentlemen showed interest in Buddhism; therefore, little Monk loaned them several books. When I was meditating one evening, these two gentlemen took away four volumes of the Nijia Jing scripture being read by my disciple Junbao. They took the books without permission. That was an improper thing to do. Therefore, little Monk would respectfully ask the Benevolent Sirs to return the books.”

Listening to the monk, Reverend Yideng and Zhu Ziliu were amazed, and then they speculated. Yideng was a monk and he had read all kind of books. Zhu Ziliu was a scholar and because of his association with his master, he was also familiar with different kinds of scriptures. They thought, “These two stole some books from the Shaolin Monastery. I thought they must be some kind of martial arts manual; who knew they only stole the Nijia Jing. The books were brought by Master Damo to the east. The content was the fundamental teachings of Buddha, which he preached in Sri Lanka. There is no relation to martial arts whatsoever. Why would these two steal them? These books have been around for a while; there are no secrets within them. Why would Jueyuan waste his time chasing these two? I think there is more to it than what meets the eye …”

Jueyuan continued, “These four volumes of Nijia Jing were brought by Master Damo from the west. They were written in Sanskrit. I am sure Benevolent Sirs are not able to read them, but for us, they were our treasures.”

Only then did the others understand that Jueyuan was talking about  the  original  Sutra,  the  one Bodhidarma wrote in India. No wonder the books were very important.

Yin Kexi laughed, he said, “That gave us a stronger reason not to borrow the books.  We  do  not  read Sanskrit. Even if we wanted to sell the books, just how much would we gain? Other than devout Buddhists and monks, nobody wants them anyway!”

Everybody was dissatisfied listening to this man’s sharp tongue, they started to get angry. Jueyuan, on the other hand, was very calm and patient. He continued, “The Nijia Jing had four different Chinese translations, but only three are left. The first one was translated by Guna-bhadra during the Liu family Song dynasty; it was named the Nijia Jing ["Guna-bhadra Lankavatara sutra]." It consisted of four volumes, also known as the Four Volumes of Lankavatara Sutra. It was similar to the Damo [Bodhidharma] taught version of the scripture and they could be compared with each other. The second one was translated by Bodhiruci during the Wei dynasty, named "Enlightened Lankavatara Sutra", it consisted of ten volumes. It was later also known as the Ten Volumes of Lankavatara Sutra. The third one was translated by Siksaananda during the Tang dynasty, named the "Mahayana Lankavatara Sutra", it consisted of seven volumes, it was later also known as the Seven Nijia Jing [Seven Volumes of Lankavatara Sutra], this was also the last translation. The final translation is also the clearest and most easily understood version, it is widely spread. I have a copy of it with me now. I am very happy to see that both benefactors are interested in Buddhism; I would be pleased to give you these scriptures. If you're also interested in the other translations of the Nijia Jing [Lankavatara Sutra], it is not impossible to obtain copies for you."

Jueyuan groped his pocket and brought out a copy of the Seven Nijia Jing. He gave them to his disciple, who in turn presented them to Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi.

“Jueyuan is so naïve yet so exceptional. No wonder these two scoundrels were able to steal the books under his care,” Yang Guo thought.

Suddenly the youngster opened his mouth, “Shifu, these two criminals did not have good intentions, they only want the treasured book! I don’t believe they have any interest in our religion.”

Everybody was surprised hearing this youngster’s voice. He was only a boy, yet his voice was loud and clear like a bell. They looked at him and saw his extraordinary features. He had a narrow forehead, slim neck, broad chest, round eyes, and big ears. His skin was ruddy. He looked about twelve or thirteen years of age, but acted like an adult.

“Little Brother, what is your great surname and given name?” asked Yang Guo.

“The little Monk’s disciple is surnamed Zhang and given name Junbao,” Jueyuan answered on his disciple’s behalf. “He has helped me in the library since he was really young, sweeping the floor and watering the plants. He calls me Master, but he has not shaved his head, since he is a layman disciple.”

Yang Guo was impressed, he praised, “An excellent Master will produce an excellent disciple. The Venerable Monk’s disciple is an extraordinary one.”

“It’s not ‘excellent Master’, it’s just that this boy has a flawless talent,” said Jueyuan humbly. “It’s a pity little Monk does not know anything. I am afraid I will not do him any good. Junbao, you are very fortunate to meet such experts today. You have to ask for advice. Remember the saying that goes like ‘listening to a master’s words is more precious than reading books for ten years’.”

“That’s right,” answered Junbao, while he thought in his heart, “Right now the most important thing is getting the books back. I can ask advice later …” He kept this thought to himself, and did not say anything.

Zhou Botong could not contain himself any longer after listening to Jueyuan’s gentle words.

“Hey Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi!” he said, scolding those two. “You  can  deceive  Elder  Monk,  but  you cannot deceive me, the Old Urchin! Do you know who the Five Experts of today are?”

“I do not know,” answered Yin Kexi. “Please enlighten me.” “Good!” said Botong proudly. “Stand straight and listen! They are the Eastern Heretic, Western Passionate, Southern Monk, Northern Hero and Central Urchin! The first and foremost is the Central Urchin! I say you stole those books, and therefore, you are the thieves! If you were not the thieves, then those books must be in your possession somehow! You have to present those books to this monk! If you hesitate, watch out, I am going to cut off one of your ears!”

Having said that, the Old Urchin moved forward, his arms open wide. He wanted to carry out his threat.

Xiaoxiang Zi and Yin Kexi frowned. They knew the Old Urchin’s skill; they also knew he would do what he said he would. While they are contemplating what to do, Jueyuan opened his mouth again, “Benevolent Master Zhou, you are wrong! There are rules for everything. On the matter of the Nijia Jing scriptures, if they said they borrowed them, then they borrowed them. If not, then they didn’t borrow them. But if they did borrow and did not admit it, then we can say they broke the rules.”

Botong heartily laughed. “You see?” he said, “Elder Monk is remarkable! I’m helping him to get his books back, yet he helps them to speak! What kind of rule is that? Elder Monk, I want to say something! I want to make sure they stole the books. If they didn’t, I’ll take them back to Mount Shaoshi for them to steal the books. Either they did or did not steal, but they still are the thieves!”

Botong spoke unreasonably, but Jueyuan nodded his head. “Benevolent Master Zhou, now you are talking!” he said. “Only let us not use the word ‘steal’, let’s just say that they ‘took without permission’. These two gentlemen had the desire to borrow; yet they did not have the permission. They have taken the books without permission.”

Listening to this discussion, everybody smiled in amusement. They talked without logic. Yang Guo could not contain his anger. He stood up in front of Zhou Botong, facing Yin Kexi and Xiaoxiang Zi. “You have assisted a tyrant committing atrocities!” he said, “You have betrayed our country by being allies with the Mongolians! You deserve death for this crime! We have Reverend Yideng and Venerable Jueyuan here. These two monks won’t let me beat you to death. Therefore, I am going to give you two choices. First, you return the books you stole and never set foot on the central plains again. Second, each of you will receive one blow from me. Whether you live or you die, let your fate decide!”

The two looked at each other. They did not dare to give an answer. They knew the fierceness of this man surnamed Yang. They realized they would not be able to take even one of his blows. Yin Kexi thought, “Only this one day…if I can survive this day, I can train myself and take revenge later on … Seems to me that amongst this bunch the monk is the easiest one to talk to. I’d better try him.” He said, “Great Hero Yang [Yang Da Xia], let’s sort out the business between you and I later. In terms of martial arts skills, you are way superior to me; I do not dare to offend you. But about the books, let us talk to Monk Jueyuan. You don’t have any business in it; do you, Yang Da Xia?”

Before Yang Guo could answer, Jueyuan had already nodded his head repeatedly. “That’s true!” he said, “This Benevolent Sir had spoken reasonably.”

Yang Guo could only shake his head. He grinned and turned to Zhang Junbao. He saw the youngster’s eyes were shining; it looked like he wanted to attack. Therefore, Yang Guo winked at him, encouraging him to go. Yang Guo then positioned himself behind the boy.

Zhang Junbao understood his signal; he moved toward Yin Kexi and harshly said, “Benevolent Mister Yin, I was reading the book that day. You sneaked up on me, sealed my accupoints and disabled me; then you stole the four-volume Nijia Jing scripture. Is that true?”

Yin Kexi shook his head. “If I wanted to borrow the book, I would ask you,” he denied, “I believed little Master would not deny me. Why would I seal your accupoints?”

Jueyuan nodded. “Yes, yes, that’s true,” he said.

“Both of you said you did not borrow the book, do you mind if I search your body?” Junbao asked.

“Body search is not proper,” said Jueyuan, “But this business is complicated. Benevolent Sirs, do you have a better idea on how you can remove my suspicions?”

Yin Kexi was about to deny further when Yang Guo suddenly said, “Venerable Monk Jueyuan, I believe these two would not have any interest in the teachings of Buddha! Monk Jueyuan, is there anything special in those books?”

Jueyuan was silent for a while, he was thinking hard. But then he answered with a deep voice, “As a monk I cannot tell lies. Since Benevolent Master Yang has asked, little Monk has to give you the truth. Inside the Nijia Jing scripture there is another book written by Master Damo himself. That book is the ‘Nine Yang Manual’ [Jiu Yang Zhen Jing].”

Everybody was stunned. In the past, the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ [Jiu Yin Zhen Jing] had caused people to fight to the death; blood had been shed. It was at the Mount Hua Sword Meet that Wang Zhongyang won the right to that book. But Wang Zhongyang was a man of honor; he was not greedy. He won the book but did not to take advantage of its contents at that time. He later read the book out of curiosity. He divided it into two parts. He wanted to avoid further bloodshed due to people fighting over it. But still, the book created more disasters. For instance, Huang Yaoshi had to expel his disciples, Zhou Botong was kept captive on the Peach Blossom Island, Ouyang Feng went crazy, and, indirectly, Emperor Duan became a monk.

Actually, besides the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ Master Damo had written another book, which was the ‘Nine Yang Manual’. This book had the same value as the ‘Nine Yin Manual’; as a matter of fact, these two books complement each other. Only the name of the ‘Nine Yang Manual’ was not as widely known as the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. It was the first time that everybody heard this book mentioned. No wonder Huang Yaoshi and the others were astonished and amazed.

Jueyuan ignored these astonished people and continued his explanation, “Little Monk is in charge of the library. It is my duty to inspect every single book of the library’s collection. The ‘Nine Yang Manual’ is different from any other book. It contains lessons to make our body healthy and strong, like ‘Replacing Muscles Cleaning the Marrow’. I have mastered the lessons for many-many years, and true enough, I have never been sick. I have taught Junbao the rudimentary lessons from the ‘Nine Yang Manual’ for the last several years. Even though it was Master Damo’s original work, it was not as valuable as the Nijia Jing, which contains great teachings. Benevolent Sirs do not read Sanskrit; the book is useless to you. You’d better return it to me.”

Yang Guo was puzzled. He didn’t understand what the Monk was saying. He thought, “Lessons on health? This is very peculiar. The Monk is also very remarkable. If I didn’t know better, I would say the Monk is just acting. I wonder why Venerable Wuxiang and Wuse – who literally lived together with this Monk for decades, are not aware there is an expert of this caliber in their midst.” Reverend Yideng on the other hand, recognized that Jueyuan has reached perfection, that was the reason he could act so naïvely.

Yin Kexi patted his body. “I don’t have anything on me, how could I have the book?” he said loudly. “I don’t either!” Xiaoxiang Zi said, shaking his clothes.

“Let me see!” Junbao suddenly shouted. His body flew toward Yin Kexi. He grabbed his chest.

Yin Kexi turned his left arm around, eluding the attack. His right arm pushed Junbao’s shoulder. It looked like his movement was light, but it resulted in Junbao’s body collapsing to the ground.

“Aha! That was incorrect, Junbao!” cried Jueyuan, “You have to be patient. Your strength concentrated like a mountain. You will see whether he can push you down or not …”

Zhang Junbao leaped up. “That’s right, Shifu!” he said. Then he leaped toward Yin Kexi again.

Everybody else had lost their patience, but they were delighted hearing Jueyuan’s advice. They thought, “This gentle monk could encourage his disciple to fight after all …”

Yin Kexi repeated his former moves; he eluded the attack and then pushed out. But this time Junbao only staggered and did not collapse to the ground like before. Yin Kexi was astonished, he was afraid of Zhou Botong, Guo Jing and Yang Guo and their peers; who would have thought that he was not even able to overcome the boy? He was anxious and pushed harder.

Zhang Junbao held his ground. But Yin Kexi’s force abruptly disappeared and he fell down, face to the ground. Yin Kexi quickly straightened up and laughed, “Little Master, you shouldn’t have kneeled to me.” Of course he was mocking him.

Junbao’s face flushed. He came to his master and said, “I failed, Shifu.”

Jueyuan scratched his head. “He purposely made an ‘emptiness’,” he said. “He uses nothingness to defeat something. When you are exerting your energy, you must use it freely, don’t mind your opponent’s force’s direction. You see that mountain peak over there?” He pointed to a mountain peak to the west. “It has stood strong from thousands of years ago until today. Storms came from the west, rains from the east, it didn’t budge, but it did not purposely challenge the force of the nature either.”

Junbao was smart, he understood easily. He nodded. “Very well Shifu. I understand,” he said. “Let me try again.” After having said that, he slowly walked toward Yin Kexi.

Yang Guo kept his gaze on the youngster. He saw him leap forward before, and now he was walking slowly. Yang Guo knew it must be the principle taken from the ‘Nine Yang Manual’. So the book not only taught how to keep one’s body healthy, but also how to defeat an opponent.

When he was about four feet away from Yin Kexi, Junbao stretched out his arms to hold Yin’s hand. Yin Kexi laughed. He put forth his left arm as bait, and his right hand punched the boy’s chest. He had no intention to hurt him, so his punch was not frontal; it was slanted toward the boy’s side. He only wanted the boy to experience a little bit of pain and to learn a lesson.

Zhang Junbao did not elude the attack. In a flash his chest was hit. “Shifu, I can hold it!” he said.

Yin Kexi was shocked. His fist hit its target, yet he felt the boy’s body imparting an opposing force, which made his punch bounce back. Fortunately he was skilled. He quickly neutralized the force. His left hand moved toward the boy’s shoulder. He wanted to grab and lift and toss the boy away. When he lifted, the boy did not budge. He was shocked and amazed, and finally anxious. Several times he changed his tactics. Junbao only swayed back and forth, left and right, but he could not make him fall down. He kept throwing punches, and out of embarrassment said, “Little Master, I am not fighting with you! A valiant man would use diplomacy, not brute force. You go away, let us talk as decent people do.”

Each one of Yin Kexi’s punches was stronger than the previous one, but Junbao did not budge. His body kept imparting opposing forces. The harder he was hit, the stronger the opposing force was. After a while Junbao cried, “Ah, Shifu, he hit me hard! I feel pain! Shifu, help me!”

Yin Kexi said, “I won’t hit you if you don’t hit me first. Elder Master, if you want to hit me just do so. If you show mercy to me, I won’t dare to retaliate.”

Jueyuan shook his head. “What Benevolent Master Yin said was true!” he said, “You don’t need to use brute force … No, I can’t help you. You have to overcome your own problem. You have to know which one is empty which one is not. Everything is either empty or full. Remember what I said, your body must be like a drum, with nothing inside. Don’t put in too much, don’t put in too little, and don’t let it break.”

Junbao understood. He had been with Jueyuan since he was only six or seven years old, and his master had bestowed the ‘Nine Yang Manual’ on him. He readied himself. Now he only felt a little bit of pain, not as severe as before.

With a man of his skill, Yin Kexi could hurt the boy severely. But there were Yang Guo, Xiao Longnu, Zhou Botong, Guo Jing and the others standing nearby. He was afraid of them, thus he did not dare to kill or harm the boy. He could not knock the boy down, but the boy could not touch him either; so the two kept fighting.

Yang Guo and the others were amused. Xiaoxiang Zi frowned, he was perplexed and anxious. Guo Xiang also had lost her patience. “Little Brother, hit him!” she urged, “Why do you let him beat you without you retaliating?”

“No! Don’t!” Jueyuan cried, “Don’t be anxious, and don’t be angry! Don’t hit, don’t curse!” “You hit him!” Guo Xiang encouraged, “If you can’t, I’ll help you!”

“Thank you, Miss!” said Junbao. He hit Yin Kexi’s chest.

“What a sin! What a sin!” cried Jueyuan shaking his head, “Your mind is no longer clear like a bright mirror stopping the water flow …”

Junbao fought as one who had never learned martial arts before, he just threw punches randomly; how could he injure the opponent? Yin Kexi heartily laughed, but actually he was distressed. He had been well known in the Jianghu world for dozens of years; nobody had the audacity to mock him. Who would have thought that he had to suffer humiliation by fighting with a young boy? The worse part was: he was not able to do anything … Even if Junbao’s punches were not hard, he eventually felt the pain.

Yin Kexi was anxious. His attacks were in vain. He wanted to kill the boy, but he was afraid of the others. He kept throwing punches, but the boy stood his ground. He was screaming with pain until Jueyuan repeatedly implored, “Benevolent Master Yin, please don’t kill my disciple; he is a very smart boy. He is bothering you because of the lost books; the treasured scriptures of our Sect. If the Abbot finds out, we will be severely punished. Little Monk implores you …” While to Junbao he said, “Junbao, remember your lessons. Use your brain, not your brawn. Follow the opponent’s movements, be flexible. Put your mind where he hits you …”

“That’s right!” Junbao loudly answered. Afterward, he did not scream anymore. Where Yin Kexi’s attack was, his mind was there. No more pain. Again Yin Kexi was puzzled. “Watch out, I will hit your head!” he threatened.

Junbao lifted his hand in anticipation, but he was tricked. Yin Kexi did not hit his head, but kicked with left leg so that the boy fell rolling to the ground. He kept rolling and came near Yang Guo.

“Benevolent Master Yin, why did you lie?” Jueyuan rebuked. “You said you were going to hit his head, you told him to watch out, but you kicked instead. You used trickery to deceive others.”

Huang Yaoshi and the others were very amused. In battle, emptiness is full, fullness is empty. One must use any trick that is unpredictable to the opponent.

Junbao was displeased. He rubbed the kicked part of his body and said, “I won’t stop until I search you!” He strode toward Yin Kexi.

Yang Guo stretched his arm to hold the boy. “Little Brother, wait a moment!” he said. Junbao was startled; he turned his head. He felt numbness from Yang Guo’s grip.

Yang Guo whispered, “All you did was let him hit you without hitting him back. You can’t do that. Let me teach you a move. And then you hit him and see what happens.” He then flicked his empty right sleeve in front to Junbao’s face while thrusting his left hand to the youngster’s chest. About half a foot away he suddenly changed direction to the boy’s waist. He whispered again, “Your Master was right, he said ‘put your mind where the opponent hits’. It is the same thing with your punch. Put your mind where your punch goes. As your Master said, use your brain, not your brawn.”

Junbao was delighted; he followed Yang Guo’s direction. He moved toward Yin Kexi, lifted his right arm toward Yin Kexi’s face while thrusting his left hand toward Yin’s chest. Yin Kexi lifted his hand to parry. Junbao could see the opponent’s movement; he suddenly moved his hand toward Yin’s ribs.

Yin Kexi had experienced the youngster’s punch before; it was not too hard. He also saw Yang Guo was giving the boy some pointers. He did not pay too much attention since he thought what harm could come from the kid’s hundred or two hundred punches anyway? But he was wrong. When the punch hit his ribs he felt an excruciating pain so that his body bent over. He almost screamed. Of course he was surprised, but also livid. He saw Junbao was going to repeat his attack. He waved his right hand toward Yin’s face and thrust his left hand toward Yin’s chest. Yin Kexi was already familiar with this move. He parried the thrust. Junbao was thrown toward, and hit, a rock so that his forehead was bleeding.

The youngster did not utter any words. He quickly wiped the blood away and walked toward Yang Guo. Kneeling in front of Yang Guo he said, “Benevolent Master Yang, please teach me another one.”

Yang Guo nodded. He knew Yin Kexi was paying attention now, so he whispered, “This time I teach you three moves. In the first, your left and right hands are interchangeable. It will look like you will use your left, but in actuality it will be your right. When you thrust your right, actually it will be your left.”

Junbao nodded. Yang Guo taught him the stance ‘Repelling the Heart Pressing the Stomach’ [tui xin zhi fu]. The boy memorized it well.

“And now the second move,” Yang Guo continued. “This time left is left and right is right.” He taught him the stance ‘To Extend in All Directions, Four Pass Through, Eight Reached’ [si tong ba da li]. Junbao went through it in his head twice and he would remember it forever.

“The third move is ‘Who Killed the Deer’ [lu si shui shou]. It involves front and rear exchange, it is more complex than the others, so you can’t make mistake. You don’t understand accupoints sealing technique, that’s fine. I will mark his back. If you press that, you will be able  to control him.” While talking Yang Guo also moved his finger to give an example, he said, “Remember, this move relies on footwork. Understand it?”

“Yes,” Junbao nodded and walked toward Yin Kexi.

Yin Kexi had watched Yang Guo carefully; he said in his heart, “These three stances are good. They are difficult to counter if they came from Yang Guo himself, but he taught that kid in front of my eyes. Did he think Yin Kexi is as stupid as an ox or a wooden horse? Ah Yang Guo, you underestimate me too much!”

Because he was filled with anger, Yin Kexi did not think straight. As soon as Junbao came in front of him, he immediately attacked the boy’s shoulder. His punch was right on target.

Junbao remembered Yang Guo’s instructions, he let the attack come, he didn’t  even  dodge  it,  he  only gritted his teeth. Yin Kexi hit using five parts of his strength; his objective was to frighten the kid. Junbao screamed in pain, his shoulder made a popping sound; but he ignored it and attacked with the first move.

Yin Kexi had watched Yang Guo’s instructions; he had thought of ways to fend off the attack, but he did not hear Yang Guo’s words. He thought he would punch the kid to the ground as he did before.

But Junbao’s attack was beyond his expectation: he parried the boy’s right hand punch with his left, but the attack was a fake one; while his right hand also grabbed in vain. Suddenly his stomach was hit very hard and he began to sweat profusely.

“Brother Yang that was a well executed “Repelling the Heart Pressing the Stomach”!” Zhou Botong praised while laughing heartily.

Yin Kexi was stunned, but Junbao had already attacked him with the second stance, “To Extend in All Directions”, which could be interpreted as the punch would come from all directions. He still felt pain when the boy flashed in front of his eyes. He thought this attack would be similar to the previous one; from left to right and vice versa; therefore, he counterattacked by moving to the left; half defense, half counterattack. But again he was tricked.

Junbao was able to execute his stance well. Both his hands hit Yin’s shoulder, chest and back. He moved nimbly, his hands fast; it was a pity his inner strength was still weak. Yin Kexi did not feel excessive pain, but he was frantically fending off the punches and dodging here and there.

Jueyuan watched his predicament and shouted, “Benevolent Master Yin, you are wrong! You must remember that there is no definite meaning of front and rear, left and right. Who lags behind will actually gain the initiative; and who initiates the attack will be under the opponent’s power.”

Yang Guo was impressed. “This Monk is right,” he thought. “He happens to know very well the essence of martial arts. His words were very valuable. I originally thought he only let his disciple fight; but he also gives valuable instructions. Yin Kexi had achieved a high level of martial arts, but I doubt he would grasp this lesson even if he were given five more years to ponder it.”

He was right; Yin Kexi did not realize the meaning behind Jueyuan’s words. He thought the monk was just mocking him to disturb his concentration.

“Hey donkey head [derogatory name for monk], don’t talk rubbish!” he snapped. “Oh, ouch … ouch!”

He screamed in pain because his left thigh had been kicked by Zhang Junbao. He was enraged and lifted both his hands; he intended to attack at the top of his strength. He ignored Junbao’s attack and all he wanted was to vent his anger.

Junbao was nervous to see his fierce countenance; his hair and whiskers stood up. Junbao called out. He was about to leap back when he heard his master say, “Junbao, our strength against his! Quick, quick! Take rigidity from flexibility. Borrowing strength with ‘Four Taels Against a Thousand Jin’ [si liang bo qian jin]!”

Jueyuan was teaching the essence of Jiu Yang Zhen Jing; unfortunately it was too late. No matter how smart Junbao was, he  could not grasp it in a short moment. Because  of his anxiety, Junbao could not breathe. He could see Yin Kexi was really angry and was going to kill him.

At that critical moment he heard the swishing noise of a small stone flying toward Yin Kexi. The stone was really small, yet it made Yin Kexi clench his teeth and move a step backward. It was Yang Guo who helped Junbao. He had picked a couple of flowers, squeezed them in his hand and made a small flower ball. He then flicked the small stone with “Divine Flicking Finger” and immediately flicked the flower ball right after that.

Yin Kexi was trying to avoid the stone by moving backward, but the flower ball which came later hit his [da zhui xue] accupoint on his back accurately. The ball did not hit hard, but it left a flower juice mark on his clothes.

Junbao was saved from danger. He leaped to the west, but did not run away. On the contrary, he continued his attack with Yang Guo’s “Who Killed the Deer”.

Yin Kexi hesitated. He had experienced several punches from this youngster, “On the first move the left and right were interchangeable, the second move they were straight; I wonder what the third move will be?” Yang Guo was ingenious, he developed that move based on the old saying, ‘qin shi qi lu, tian xia gong zhu zhi’ [lit. Qin (Dynasty) lost its deer, everybody was chasing after it]; how could Yin anticipate the move?

No matter how hard Yin Kexi tried to keep up he got behind. Junbao moved fast, flashing to the left and right, and in no time he was behind Yin’s back. At that time the moon was already high in the sky. Junbao could see the thumb-size flower juice mark. Without wasting any time he hit the mark. He thought, “Benevolent Master Yang is so good, without my being able to see it, he has given me the promised mark

…”

Yin Kexi did not move quickly enough, before he realized it his back had been hit by Junbao’s finger. This [da zhui xue] is the meeting point of three arteries. He felt a sudden numbness and he collapsed to the ground.

Except for Xiaoxiang Zi, everybody cheered! They praised, “A very nice “Who Killed the Deer”.”

“Excuse me!” Junbao said and searched his fallen opponent’s body. Unfortunately he did not find the sutra book he was looking for. He turned his eyes to Xiaoxiang Zi.

Xiaoxiang Zi was not stupid. He understood the boy’s intention. His skill level was almost the same as Yin Kexi’s. Therefore, if Yin Kexi has fallen, he would not gain victory either. Without waiting he brushed his long robe and said, “I don’t have the books you are looking for. Farewell!” He paid no attention to Yin Kexi and immediately leaped southward to escape.

Unexpectedly Jueyuan flicked his sleeve; his body flew past him blocking Xiaoxiang Zi’s way. Xiaoxiang Zi was fast, Jueyuan was even faster. Without further ado Xiaoxiang Zi attacked the monk’s chest. He exerted his whole energy toward his both hands.

“Watch out!” Yang Guo, Zhou Botong, Reverend Yideng and Guo Jing cried simultaneously. They knew the fierceness of this blow. While they were still shouting, a loud crash was heard. The  monk’s  chest  was squarely hit by the ‘book thief’. They groaned inwardly, “Damn!”

Even though his attack hit the monk’s chest, Xiaoxiang Zi was the one who suffered from this blow. He flew away like a kite without a string; his body flew several meters and he fell to the ground, unconscious.

Jueyuan did not have any martial arts, but he has mastered the ‘Nine Yang Manual’. His body could be controlled at will. He did not dodge Xiaoxiang Zi’s attack, but his body reacted to external force naturally. A soft blow would produce a softer reaction, and a hard blow would produce an even harder reaction. Xiaoxiang Zi’s blow was very forceful; therefore, the reaction force was also enormous. Xiaoxiang’s strength bounced back and he injured himself severely.

The spectators were pleasantly surprised; they secretly praised this monk’s profound internal energy. But Jueyuan was dumbfounded, he softly murmured, “Amitaba Buddha, Amitaba Buddha.” Zhang Junbao immediately leaped over and searched his body. As with Yin Kexi, he did not find any books. He stood still in bewilderment.

“I overheard their conversation. I am sure they stole the books,” Yang Guo said, “I wonder where they hid them.”

“Let us torture them and force their confession,” Wu Xiuwen proposed. “Please, please …” Jueyuan said, “don’t …”

“I believe they won’t confess even if we chop one off their arms or legs,” Huang Rong quipped. She knew very well these two’s characters.

While everybody was at loss as to what to do next, they heard a monkey’s cry from the western peak. They turned their head and saw the Divine Eagle chasing a dark green ape. The ape was big, but it was no match for the Eagle. The ape frantically ran and shrieked incessantly.

“Brother Eagle, have mercy on the monkey, let him go,” Guo Xiang ran toward the Eagle. The Eagle understood, it stopped and stood still.

Yin Kexi woke up and stood. He helped Xiaoxiang Zi to stand; then beckoned to the ape. The ape rushed to his side; it seemed like it had been tamed by them. They leaned against the ape and limping, walked away down the mountain. Yang Guo and the others felt pity and let them go.

Guo Xiang saw Junbao’s forehead was still bleeding; she took her handkerchief out and dressed the wound. Junbao was very grateful; he was about to open his mouth to express his gratitude when he saw tears welling up in Guo Xiang’s eyes. He did not know why the Miss was heartbroken.

At that moment he heard Yang Guo’s clear voice, “We had a great time gathering on this beautiful evening. We shall chat over a cup of wine when we meet again. Let us part here.” He waved his sleeve, held Xiao Longnu’s hand and walked down the mountain together with the Divine Eagle.

The moon was bright like it was day, a cool breeze stirred the leaves, the night birds chirped cheerfully but Guo Xiang could not hold back her tears and the tear drops fell to the ground.

So it is said:

“The autumn wind is clear and bright, the fallen leaves clump together,

the birds go south for the winter. When can they meet again;

that time is hard to decide.”

[The end of the entire book. The narration of Guo Xiang, Zhang Junbao, Jueyuan, the Nine Yang Manual, and others’ accomplisment will be continued in the ‘Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber’.]

THE END

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