Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre - Chapter 10
Chapter 10 - Hundred Years Celebration Brings Heartbreak
After the passage of a few days, it was already the eighth day of the fourth month. Tomorrow will be Zhang SanFeng's one hundredth year birthday and he knew that his disciples most definitely would have prepared a festive celebration. Because Yu DaiYan was crippled and Zhang CuiShan was missing, there would undoubtedly be lack amongst their celebration. Yet, in one's time, to be able to celebrate your one hundredth birthday was nevertheless considered as something special. Furthermore, during this period, he has also entered isolated meditation in order to study the practice of the “Tai Chi Skill” and had already fully comprehended its true essence. From now on, the sect of Wu Dang can fully exhibit its colours within the martial arts world, not being inferior to even the martial arts of Shaolin that was passed down from Northern India's DaMo. Therefore during the early dawn of that morning, Zhang SanFeng exited from his isolation.
A clear whistling sound was heard as his sleeve fluttered slightly and the two door boards opened up with an “ah” sound. The first thing that Zhang SanFeng saw wasn’t anything or anybody else, but was rather the disciple he had thought and yearned for endlessly during the last ten years, Zhang CuiShan.
Zhang SanFeng closed his eyes, believing that his eyes must have played a trick on him. But Zhang CuiShan had already thrown himself into Zhang SanFeng’s embrace, repeatedly crying out the words, “Master!” In the midst of his emotional state, he had actually forgotten to kneel down and perform obeisance. Five joyful voices coming from Song YuanQiao and the others cried out together, “Congratulations master! Fifth brother has returned to us!”
Zhang SanFeng has lived a total of one hundred years and has seek enlightenment for more than eighty years now. The clarity of pure truth had long existed within the depths of his heart, for he has long ago forsaken all traces of longing or desire for the millions of material objects of the world. But the love he shared with his seven disciples was as genuine as that of a father and son, thus when he suddenly saw Zhang CuiShan reappear in front of him, he couldn’t help himself from holding him tightly within his embrace. He was so overwhelmed with joy that tears emerged from his eyes.
The group of brothers all attended to their Master, serving him in his grooming and cleansing, bringing him a clean set of clothing. Zhang CuiShan did not dare to report any sort of news that would excite anger, and therefore only talked about the exotic adventures and rare entities of the Ice- Fire Island. Zhang SanFeng having heard that Zhang CuiShan had already married became even more joyful and asked, “Where is your wife now? Quickly bring her here to see me.”
Zhang CuiShan knelt down on the floor and said, “Master, your worthless disciple has dared to take a wife without first gaining your permission.” Zhang SanFeng stroked his beard and laughingly replied, “You were stranded on the Ice-Fire Island for ten years, unable to return home. Are you suppose to wait ten years and reported to me before you could take a wife? What a silly, silly assertion! Quickly get up, there is no need to admit to any wrong. Zhang SanFeng does not have such a old-fashioned disciple.” Zhang CuiShan continued to kneel, refusing to get up, “But my wife is not of an orthodox background. She … she is the daughter of Heavenly Eagle sect’s sect-leader.”
Zhang SanFeng continues to stroke his beard and said with a laugh, “And what matter is that? As long as your wife’s character is honest and her heart is good, then that is all that matters. Even if she is not a good person, having arrived here at our mountain, can we not slowly change and guide her towards good? So what if she is from the Heavenly Eagle sect? CuiShan, you have to understand that in life one should always take caution to never have a heart that is too restricted in breadth. You must never look down on others just because you reside in the position of the so-called orthodox sects. The two words of “good” and “evil” were originally hard to differentiate. A member of the orthodox sect when harbouring thoughts of impurity and immorality will be considered as a wicked villain, and similarly if a member from the evil sect harbours a heart that is completely directed towards goodness, then that person is a gentleman.” Zhang CuiShan was overjoyed, for he never would have thought that the very burden which had weighted heavily upon his heart for the last ten years could be so easily resolved by just a few words from his master. A beaming smile immediately lighted up Zhang CuiShan’s face as he stood up.
Zhang SanFeng continued to say, “Your father-in-law, sect-master Yin is a person whom I have wanted to make acquaintances with for very long now. I am truly respectful towards his powerful martial arts and the fact that he is a brave, forthright and extraordinary man. Although his character is somewhat extreme and his actions may be a bit peculiar, yet he is not a despicable scoundrel. We can certainly make friends with him.” Song YuanQiao and the others thought to themselves, “Master really does treat fifth brother with profound love. He even went as far as extending his love towards all those under brother's roof, willing to make acquaintances with a big demonic lord like his father-in-law.” At this moment, a young Taoist apprentice came in and reported, “Heavenly Eagle sect's Sect-Master Yin has sent somebody here to deliver presents to Uncle Zhang.”
Zhang SanFeng said with a smile, “Your father-in-law has sent you presents CuiSan, go out to receive your guests!” Zhang Cui Shan replied, “Yes.”
Yin LiTing said, “I'm going with fifth brother.” Zhang SongXi laughed and said, “But it’s not Golden Whip Hero old master Jie who has sent the presents, why must you follow out with such haste?” Yin LiTing’s face flushed a beet red while he continued to follow Zhang CuiShan outside.
Upon entering the main reception room, they saw two old men standing there dressed in the attire of a servant, with straight cloth hats. As soon as they saw Zhang CuiSan come out, they immediately rushed forward and knelt down together in an act of reverence while saying, “Young master, many blessings to you. We, your humble servants Yin WuFu, Yin WuLu bow down to you.” Zhang CuiShan returned the greeting by raising his joined hands and saying, “Housekeepers, please do get up” while silently thinking to himself, “The names of these two servants are so strange. The typical servant is usually given a name that blesses the house by containing words along the lines of ‘providence, well-being, blessings, opulence, longevity and happiness'. Why is it that these two people are called ‘the un- blest', and the 'un-prosperous’?” Zhang CuiShan then subsequently noticed that on Yin WuFu’s face was an extremely long scar left by a saber, stretching from the right corner of his forehead all the way downwards, passing over the tip of the nose and stopping at the far left corner of his lips. Yin WuLu's face on the other hand was filled with pockmarks. These two men looked to be more than fifty years old, their appearances were extremely ugly and unpleasant.
Zhang CuiShan continued to say, “Are my father and mother-in-law well? I was originally planning to engage in a little preparation before your mistress and I immediately went to pay our respects to our honoured loved ones. But I never expected that father and mother would pay us a visit first, how can I be worthy of such generosity? The two of you must be extremely tired having travelled such a far distance, please take a seat and have a cup of tea.” Yin WuFu and Yin WuLu did not dare to sit down, but only came forward and respectfully presented the checklist for the gifts while saying, “Our master and madam said to tell you that these are merely meagre and humble presents, we hope that young master can accept them with pleasure.”
Zhang CuiShan said, “Thank you!” and opened the checklist of gifts. He was shocked to see that on the ten or so pieces of darkly coloured gold paper were listed a total of more than two hundred gifts. The first listed gift was “Exquisite jade lions - a pair,” the second was “Emerald phoenix - a pair” and after the listings of an endless number of treasures was “High Grade Purple Wolf Drawing Brushes – one hundred pieces,” “Imperial tributes, Tang dynasty ink – 20 slabs,” “Xuan1 paper made with Mulberry worm silk
– a hundred sheets” “Top Quality Duan2 Ink-Stones – 8 squares.” Because the master of the Heavenly Eagle Sect heard that his honoured guest was well-versed in the art of writing, he thus sent over an extremely expensive pile of pens, ink, paper and ink stone. On top of that were clothes, shoes, crowns and belts. Yin WuFu turned around to exit the room, only to return with ten baggage carriers, every one of them carrying two loads balanced on a shoulder pole, which they placed to the sides of the room.
Zhang CuiShan was silently fretting to himself, “I grew up in a simple abode amongst the humble mountainous environment. What use do I have for these expensive gifts? Yet these gifts were bestowed by my father-in-law and brought here from afar, it would be too disrespectful if I don’t accept it.” Therefore he could only express words of gratitude and accept the gifts while saying “Your young mistress has contracted a slight illness through the arduous journey. Perhaps you can reside on the mountain for a few days before you see her?” Yin WuFu replied, “Master and madam are both extremely desirous to hear about young mistress, they commanded us to report back to them right away. If it is not too straining for young mistress, your humble servant I would like to request just one look at her and then we will retreat immediately.”
Zhang CuiShan replied, “If that is the case, then please wait here for a moment” while he returned to his room and told his wife about the situation. Yin SuSu was extremely happy and briefly fixed her hair before going out to the smaller reception rooms to reunite with her two family members. While she asked about her father, mother and brother’s well being, she also invited these two servants for a meal and some drinks. Afterwards, Yin WuFu and Yin WuLu asked their young master and mistress for the permission to leave.
Zhang CuiShan thought to himself, “Father and mother-in-law sent us such generous gifts, I should really grant a hefty reward to these two people. Yet I’m afraid that even if I gathered together all the money on this mountain, its meagre sum would still be hardly worthy of a mention.” Zhang CuiShan was by nature magnanimous and therefore does not take such matters to heart. With a laugh, he said instead, “Your young mistress has married a penniless master who can’t afford to grant you any rewards. Housekeepers, please do excuse us.” Yin WuFu replied, “Please do not say such things young master. To have the opportunity to meet the fifth hero of Wu Dang is my greatest pleasure and is a honour worth much more than a reward of a thousand pounds of gold.” Zhang CuiShan thought to himself, “This housekeeper expresses and enunciates his words with such poetic eloquence, he seems to be a person with an academic background.” When they arrived at the median gates, Yin WuFu said, “Young master, please cease your steps here. We hope that you and young mistress will arrive to our home as soon as possible in order to lessen master and madam’s longing. The whole sect will also be anticipating the day when they can be granted with a glimpse of your charisma.” Zhang CuiShan laughed.
Yin WuLu said, “There is still one little thing that I need to report to you young master. When my brothers and I were delivering the presents to the mountain, we encountered three escorts gathered within an inn in the town of Xiang Yang. Amongst the conversation of these three men, there was mention of you.” Zhang CuiShan said, “Oh? What did they say?” Yin WuLu said, “one man said, ‘although we are much indebted to the seven heroes of Wu Dang, yet the seventy odd lives of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency cannot be forgotten just like that.’ The three of them decided that since they themselves cannot participate in this incident, they therefore wanted to go to the KaiFeng City’s Sacred Spear Ruling Eight Directions, Old hero Tan to stand out and dispute over this incident with you young master.” Zhang Cui Shan nodded his head and did not say anything.
Yin WuFu reached inside his pockets and took out three small flags which he then presented to Zhang Cui Shan with both hands and said, “When your humble servants overheard that these three escorts were daring to dig up on the land governed by the Earth God3, this incident is already considered as the business of our Heavenly Eagle Sect.”
As soon as he saw the three small flags, Zhang CuiShan could help but be taken back for he saw embroidered on one flag the head of a vivacious tiger, roaring fiercely towards the heavens while in a crouching position. It was obviously the flag that represented the “Crouching Tiger Escort Agency.” Embroidered on the second small flag was a white crane soaring through the clouds, which would naturally be the agency flag that symbolized the “JinYang Escort Agency” for the white crane amongst the white clouds symbolized the head escort Yun He4. As for the third small flag, there were nine swallows embroidered with gold thread, incorporating the word “Swallow” in “Cloud Swallow Escort Agency” and the “Nine” in their head
escort Gong JiuJia’s name.
Zhang CuiShan asked with curiosity, “Why did you take their escort flags?” Yin WuFu replied, “Young master, you are the Heavenly Eagle sect’s honoured guest, who did Qi TianBiao and Gong JiuJia think they were? Especially since the seven heroes of Wu Dang has performed good deeds for them before, how dare they go to ask an old bloke such as the so-called “Sacred Spear Ruling Eight Directions” Tan RuiLai from the KaiFeng City to come and pester young master you? Is that not ridiculous? Therefore when we heard the three escorts’ offensive words of disrespect …” Zhang CuiShan remarked, “Those words really can’t be considered as being particularly disrespectful.” Yin WuFu said, “Yes, but that is because young master you are so magnanimous and forgiving, such is something that others cannot compare with. But my brothers and I really could not restrain ourselves from taking care of those three escorts and seizing the escort flags of their agencies.”
Zhang CuiShan was greatly taken back as he thought about how people like Qi TianBiao were all lords that ruled over the escort agencies of a region and who have long made a name for themselves within the martial arts world. Even though they can’t be considered as great or ultimate figures of the martial arts world, yet they all had their own unique abilities. How can it be that the three servants of his father-in-law’s household can calmly say with such ease that they have ‘taken care of them’? However, even if Yin WuFu was just boasting for show, yet they were indeed able to obtain the three agencies’ escort flags. Forget just taking it from right under their eyes, but even to steal it secretly would prove itself to be a hard task. Can it be that they used some kind of tranquilizing sedative or soporific incense at the inn to harm the three heads escorts? Thus he asked, “How were you able to obtain these three escort flags?”
Yin WuFu replied, “At that time, my second brother WuLu was the one who issued the challenge. We set up a time to meet with them at the Southern gates of Xiang Yang for a duel. It was the three of us up against the three of them. We’ve already stated before that if they lose, they must leave behind their escort flags and chop off one of their arms, while also promising to never step foot back into the Wu Bei Province for the rest of their lives.” Zhang CuiShan was becoming increasingly perplexed as he listened, no longer did he dared to take the two servants in front of him lightly. He asked, “Then what happened?” Yin WuFu replied, “Nothing much. They just left behind their escort flags, severed their left arm and stated that they will not take one step back into the Wu Bei Province for the rest of their lives.”
Zhang CuiShan was secretly frightened as he thought, “These Heavenly Eagle Sect members are much too vicious in their ways” while his eyebrows knotted together unconsciously. Yin WuLu said, “If young master you are displeased with your unworthy servants for issuing too light of a punishment, then we can immediately go after them to finish the three of them off.” Zhang Cui Shan hurriedly insisted, “No! Not light at all. It’s severe enough already!” Yin WuFu said, “We also felt that because the purpose of our trip was to bring gifts to young master you, it is therefore a very wonderful and joyous event. If we killed any lives, it may ruin such a blessed event.” Zhang CuiShan said, “That’s right. How very thoughtful and considerate of you all. You just said that there were three of you who came, but where is that third person now?” Yin WuFu replied, “There is still
6another brother called Yin W After we took care of the three escorts,
we were worried that the Sacred Spear old fool Tan would finally hear of the news and would still dare to come forward and bother young master you, therefore Yin WuShou has gone to KaiFeng City. He asks your humble servant I to express his regards on his behalf.” After saying this, he knelt down to the floor and bowed.
Zhang CuiShan also gave a bow in return of the gesture and said, “That’s much too kind of him” while thinking to himself that this Sacred Spear Ruling Eight Directions Tan RuiLai’s name has always been well-known and respected for it has been almost forty years since he established a name for himself. Now because of him, Yin WuShou will go barging into the KaiFeng City. Regardless of whomever may be hurt, it will still cause him to be ridden with guilt. Thus he said, “I have long since heard the great name of the Sacred Spear Ruling Eight Directions, they say that old master Tan is a true gentleman. I would like to ask the two of you to please go to the KaiFeng City and to tell brother WuShou not to quarrel with old master Tan anymore incase the two sides get into an argument and subsequently start a fight, which I’m afraid will yield disasterous results.”
Yin WuLu smiled ever so faintly and said , “Young master, there’s no need to worry. That old fool Tan won’t dare to meddle with my youngest brother. When my brother tells him not to stick his nose into this business, he will listen to his orders.” Zhang CuiShan murmured a “Really?” while silently asking himself how can this Sacred Spear Ruling Eight Directions Tan RuiLai possibly allow himself to be so easily bullied? Even if he may be an old man now, yet within the KaiFeng City, the Tan family has at least one or two dozen disciples who are highly skilled in martial arts, why would they be scared of a Yin WuShou? Yin WuFu could read the skeptical incredulity on Zhang CuiShan's face, therefore said, “The old bloke Tan was defeated by Yin WuShou twenty years ago, besides he also has some major discreditable information in our hands now. Please take care now young master.” The two of them then paid their final respects and departed.
Zhang CuiShan stood there clutching the three escort flags within his hands, debating for a moment. He originally wanted to send these two people to help him out in his search for WuJi's current whereabouts. But when he thought to how mentioning this incident to an outsider might prove to be unwise for although he did not place much importance on his own name, yet it would still no doubt affect his second brother's eminent reputation. Therefore he could only slowly tread back to his bedroom.
Yin SuSu was lying on the bed rereading through the checklist of presents, overwhelmed with gratitude at the love her parents had shown towards her. But when she thought to how at this moment, WuJi's whereabouts were still unknown, she was also overwhelmed with a burning heartache. When she saw her husband enter the room with an fretful expression, she immediately asked with alarm, “What's wrong?”
Zhang CuiShan asked, “What are the backgrounds of those three people WuFu, WuLu and WuShou?” Yin SuSu has been married to her husband for ten years now, but because she knew that within his heart, there always existed discontent towards the Heavenly Eagle sect, she therefore purposely refrained from relating to him the details of her family and the sect's background. Similarly, Zhang CuiShan would never ask her. Now only when she heard her husband ask her himself, did she finally say, “Twenty years ago, these three people were actually great bandits that ruled over the Southwestern regions. But one time, they were surrounded by many powerful fighters all at once and knew that they were not going to be able to escape. At that time, my father happened to pass by and when he saw how in the midst of their hopeless battle, they still manage to uphold their integrity and refused to surrender, my father therefore lent out a helping hand and rescued them. The three of them originally had different surnames, so of course they weren’t brothers. But in order to prove their gratefulness towards my father for saving their lives, they thus solemnly vowed that for their rest of their lives, they will act as his servant and will cast off their original names and change it to Yin WuFu, Yin WuLu and Yin WuShou instead. Ever since I was small, I would be very courteous towards them and dared not to treat or view them as real servants. My father told me that in terms of martial arts and fame, there probably would be few famed fighters of the martial arts world who could compete with them.”
Zhang CuiShan nodded and said, “I see” before describing the incident of how they decapitated other people’s right arm and seized another's escort flag. Yin SuSu’s scowled and said, “Their intentions were originally good, but they don’t understand that the disciples of the orthodox sects do things differently from the evil sects. CuiShan, I’m afraid that incident has caused you more trouble, I … I really don’t know what to do about this.” After a sigh, she continued, “After we find WuJi, I think we had better return to the Ice-Fire Island.” When she suddenly heard Yan LiTing call from outside the door, “Brother, come and flex your writing skills for us to write a pair of birthday celebratory phrases” he laughed before continuing, “Sister, don’t blame me for dragging brother away from you, but he is after all the ‘Iron Brush, Silver Hook.’”
That afternoon, the six brothers split up, supervising and giving commands to the culinary help, while the little Taoist apprentices cleaned around and decorated the whole Purple Paradise Hall. The celebratory words that Zhang CuiShan penned were also displayed within the main reception hall. Everywhere was filled with a celebratory atmosphere.
During the early dawn of the next day, Song YuanQiao and his brothers all changed into a newly tailored set of clothing and were all just about to go and assist Yu DaiYan so that the seven of them could go to their master as a group to offer their birthday blessings, when suddenly an Taoist apprentice came in and presented a calling card. It was Song YuanQiao who took the invitation but Zhang SongXi’s eyes were quick and saw that written on the card were the words, “Ku Lun Sect students He TaiChong accompanied by his disciples wishes master Zhang longevity comparable with the mountains.” Zhang SongXi exclaimed with alarm, “The sect master of Kun Lun has personally come to celebrate master’s birthday? When did he arrive in the Central Plains?” Muo ShengGu asked, “Did Madam He come as well?” He TaiChong’s wife Ban ShuXian was his martial arts sister, and rumour has it that the level of her martial arts were not below the likes of the sect master. Zhang SongXi said, “Her name is not listed on the calling card.” Song YuanQiao said, “This guest is of great stature and importance, we should ask master to personally receive him” as he hurriedly ran out to report to Zhang SanFeng.
Zhang SanFeng said, “I have heard that Mister Iron Zither very rarely comes to the Central Plains, I can’t believe that he would even be aware of this old man’s birthday.” He then quickly stepped outside while bringing his six disciples along with him. When they saw Mister Iron Zither He TaiChong, they found that he did not look to be of a particularly old age. Dressed in a yellow gown, there was a sort of celestial holiness to his appearance. His expression was peaceful while also not lacking the solemn dignity the sect master of a famous Orthodox sect should have. Behind him stood a group of eight disciples comprised of male and female, XiHua Zi and Wei SiNiang were also included within the group. He TaiChong performed obeisance and expressed birthday blessings to Zhang SanFeng. Zhang San Feng continually expressed gratitude and raised his hands to form a representation of greeting in return. Song YuanQiao and his five brothers all knelt down and bowed their heads to the ground, while He Tai Chong also knelt and bowed in return while saying, “The fame of the six heroes of Wu Dang spreads through the universe, how can I be worthy of such a generous act of respect?”
Zhang SanFeng led He TaiChong and his disciples into the main reception hall, and just when the host and guests had the chance to sit down and have tea be served, a young Taoist apprentice came in with a calling card in hand, presenting it to Song YuanQiao. It announced that the Kong Tong 5 elders have all arrived together. During the present era's martial arts world, the sects Shaolin and Wu Dang had the most illustrious recognition. E-Mei followed after them, and then came Kong Tong. In terms of status and rank, the likes of the Kong Tong five elders were on the same level as Song YuanQiao. But Zhang San Feng was extremely gracious by nature, thus he stood up and said, “The Kong Tong five elders have arrived. Brother He, please wait here for a short while this old priest goes out to receive the guests.”
He TaiChong thought to himself, “To receive guests like the Kong Tong 5 elders, just sending out a disciple is good enough.”
Not soon after, the Kong Tong elders entered accompanied by their disciples. After that, the Heavenly Fists School, Sea Salt Sect, Huge Whale Clan, Wu Shan Clan and many figures of eminence and importance from other schools and clans have also arrived on the mountain to express their blessings for the birthday. Song YuanQiao and his brothers had originally intended for this day to be a celebration between their master and his disciples, they never expected that so many guests would arrive as well. Each of the six disciples were all bustling around, receiving guests without a moment’s chance to rest. What Zhang SanFeng disliked the most throughout his life were these unnecessary rites and customs, thus during his seventy, eighty and ninetieth birthday, he would purposely remind his disciples to not alarm outsiders. But ironically on his one hundredth birthday, the fundamental core of the marital arts world would be gathered together here. It eventually got to be that within the Purple Paradise Hall, there wasn’t even enough chairs for the guests to sit in. Song YuanQiao could only send people to go outside to bring in some round rocks and closely packed them together amongst the hall. The sect masters and clan leaders of the various sects and clans were all afforded a chair, but their disciples could only sit on the rocks. All the teacups were used, and they could only resort to using rice bowls and meal bowls to serve the tea.
Zhang SongXi pulled Zhang CuiShan into the side rooms before asking, “Brother, have you noticed anything?” Zhang CuiShan replied, “They've all planned beforehand to meet here. Although they were fully aware of what to expect, and confident about who they will see, yet some people would purposely feign surprised and end up making their masquerade all the more obvious.” Zhang SongXi said, “That’s right. They did not come with true intentions of celebrating master’s birthday.” Zhang CuiShan said, “Celebrating the birthday is just their excuse, when a planned interrogation comprises their true intentions.” Zhang SongXi said, “But they’re not trying to interrogate master. The case of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency will very unlikely have the power of bringing Mr. Iron Zither He TaiChong to here.” Zhang CuiShan said, “Yes. These people are all here because of the Golden Mane Lion King Xie Xun.”
Zhang SongXi laughed coldly and said, “It seems that they’ve grossly underestimated the Wu Dang disciples. Even if they wanted to intimidate us with sheer numbers, did they think that a Wu Dang disciple would sell out their own friend? Brother, even if this Xie Xun is indeed a malicious and unforgivable crook, he is nevertheless your sworn brother. His whereabouts most definitely cannot be revealed through your lips.” Zhang CuiShan agreed, “You’re absolutely right brother. But what should we do now?” Zhang SongXi pondered briefly before saying, “We could only be on our guards for now. As long as we brothers stick and stand by each other, our combined strengths can shatter through solid gold. What big waves and storms haven’t the Seven Heroes of WuTang experienced? Why would we be afraid of them?” Although Yu DaiYan was crippled, he was still considered as a part of the “Seven Heroes of Wu Tang,” and behind the seven brothers, there still stood a grand Master Zhang SanFeng whose martial arts brilliancy can illuminate and astound the past and present, crowning and eclipsing over his contemporaries. It was just that the two brothers were being considerate of the fact that their master has now reached the advanced age of a hundred, thus even though the situation in front of them right now was extremely complicated, yet all the brothers still hoped to handle everything by themselves. Naturally, they wouldn't want to have their master take action himself, yet they also wouldn't want him to worry. Zhang SongXi's words were an attempt at reassuring his martial arts brother, but within his heart he knew that today's problem would be a very complicated matter. To protect the sect's well-being today will truly prove to be very difficult challenge.
Back within the main reception hall, Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou and Yin LiTing were all accompanying the guests, engaging in light conversation. The three of them had already recognized that something was not right about the guests and were all estimating about the situation within their hearts.
In the midst of the conversations, another young apprentice came in and reported, “Disciples of the E-Mei sect, revered nun JingXuan along with five of her fellow martial art brothers and sisters have arrived to celebrate Grand Master's birthday.” Song YuanQiao and Yu LianZhou both laughed at the same time while looking over at Yin LiTing. At that time Muo ShengGu was currently outside, accompanying the eight or nine guests into the direction of the reception hall. Zhang SongXi and Zhang CuiShan happened to be stepping out from the inner rooms right at that moment, and when they heard that the E-Mei disciples had arrived, they also grin slightly at Yin LiTing. Yin LiTing's face was beet red, while his motions betrayed his shyness. Zhang CuiShan grabbed his hand and said while laughing, “Come, come, come, let's go and welcome our guests.”
As they both stepped out of the doors, they immediately saw this revered nun Jing Xuan was a nun already in her mid forties, built tall and sturdy, and possessing of a very commanding and arresting presence. Even though she was a female, yet she was taller than the average male by half a head. Amongst the five disciples standing behind her, there was a thin man in his mid thirties and two other nuns. Zhang CuiShan has already encountered revered nun Jing Xuan the other day on the boat amongst the sea. There were two other girls in their twenties, one's lips were pursed in a faint smile while the other girl had snow white skin and a long, slender body. This lovely girl's head was lowered while she fingered the corner of her clothing. This was of course the future wife to be of Yin LiTing, the daughter of the Golden Whip Ji family, Ji XiaoFu.
Zhang CuiShan approached and expressed greetings before accompanying the six guests inside. Yin LiTing was incredibly embarrassed and didn't even dare to take one glance into Ji XiaoFu's direction. When they approached the corridor, he observed that everyone had grouped together and were walking ahead of them therefore couldn't help himself from glancing over at Ji XiaoFu. During that time Ji XiaoFu's head was lowered, but just at that moment she also happened to look over at him, causing the eyes of both parties to meet. Ji XiaoFu's younger apprentice sister Bei JinYi gave out a loud cough, causing the two of them to be so embarrassed that they immediately whipped their heads back around, their faces flushed into a deep colour of red. Bei JinYi bursted out into a giggle and then said in a low voice, “Sister, that brother Yin is even shyer than you.” Ji XiaoFu's body suddenly trembled a few times as her face turned into an ashen colour of grey, glistening tears were brimming in her eyes.
During all during this time, Zhang SongXi was assessing their situation and calculating the dynamics between his sect and their enemies. When he saw the six disciples of the E-Mei sect come in, he felt somewhat relieved, as he thought to himself: “Miss Ji is sixth brother's future wife-to-be, if debating doesn't work out later and we do end up in a fight, the E-Mei sect may stand on our side to help us.”
The various crowds of guests continued to arrive and time very quickly approached midday. There was absolutely no preparation within the Purple Paradise Hall beforehand, therefore what kind of banquet could they possibly arrange? The cook could only give each person a big bowl of white rice and arrange some simple vegetables and tofu on top. The six disciples of Wu Dang repeatedly expressed their apologies, but they've observed that while the guests were eating their rice, they kept repeatedly glancing towards the outer doors of the hall, as if they were expecting somebody.
Song YuanQiao and his brothers were carefully observing each person, and they noticed that each sect's sect master and each clan's clan leader were all retaining their dignity and status by not bringing any weapons along with them. But noises were emanating from the waist area of many of their disciples and clan members, very obviously a sign that they were carrying weapons on them. Only the disciples of the three sects E-Mei, Kun Lung and Kong Tong were empty handed. Song YuanQiao and all his brothers felt indignant anger within their hearts as they thought to themselves, “You all say that you are here to celebrate my master's birthday, but then why would you secretly conceal weapons?”
When they looked over the presents that everyone brought, they found that the majority of them were stuff that can be purchased at the last minute from the markets located at the foot of the mountain. Such things as birthday buns and birthday noodles were all that of which could be easily bought in haste. Not only was it incredibly incongruous with the status of a martial arts Grand Master such as Zhang SanFeng, but it was similarly contradictory with regards to the reputation and illustriousness of the leaders and masters of each sect and clan.
Only the E-Mei sect presented a real present that was truly worthy of cherishing. Aside from the sixteen colours of valuable jade, there was also a large brocaded Taoist gown that had the word “Longevity” embroidered with gold thread one hundred times and in one hundred different styles of writing. It could be imagined the great deal of time that must have been spent in order to complete such a gown. Revered nun Jing Xuan explained to Zhang SanFeng, “This was completed by the combined efforts of ten female disciples of the E-Mei sect.” Zhang SanFeng's heart was quite touched as he smiled and said, “E-Mei heroines' fists and sword skills have long been made famous throughout the world, and to have them bring this wonderful embroidered gown for this old man today is a huge honour indeed.” Zhang SongXi was closely observing everyone's expressions while thinking to himself, “What kind of powerful backup are they all waiting for? Coincidently master does not enjoy festive celebrations and didn't invite Wu Dang's closest friends here ahead of time, otherwise we most definitely wouldn't be caught in such an circumstance today, where we are so greatly outnumbered and cut off from any assistance.” His thoughts are based on the assertion that his master's acquaintances and friends have always spread throughout the world. The seven brothers have similarly performed many heroic deeds and charitable acts of kindness, forming many ties of goodwill. Had they been prepared ahead of time, they most definitely would have been able to invite a few dozen first rate fighters to come and attend today's birthday banquet.
Yu LianZhou who was standing by Zhang SongXi whispered, “We had originally intended to wait until after master's birthday before we distributed
7the Hero Invitations and conducted a Heroes Banquet at the W
town's Yellow Crane Restaurant. Can't believe that just this one error would cause the whole match to be controlled within the hands of others.” He had already planned out everything within his head. He originally intended for Zhang Cui Shan to declare at the Hero's Banquet his justification of not betraying a friend. All members of the JiangHu world highly value and respect the notion of “righteousness,” thus as long as Zhang CuiShan openly declare this as his reason, nobody could force him to take on the crime of being a unrighteous rogue. Even if there were those who wouldn't be willing to give up so easily, as long as there are a good number of first rate fighters that are true friends of the Wu Dang sect attending that banquet, then even if the situation is forced to the point of using martial arts to solve problems, the Wu Dang sect can at least not worry about losing. But who would have thought that the others would already have discerned this step and would actually use the excuse of celebrating a birthday to first gather together a sufficient number of helpers and charge up on the mountain to catch the unsuspecting and unprepared Wu Dang sect at a disadvantage?
Zhang SongXi whispered softly, “Since the situation has come to this point, the only choice we have is to fight to our deaths.” Amongst the seven heroes of Wu Dang, Zhang SongXi was the most astute and clever of them all. Whenever he came across a difficult or a tricky challenge, he would often be able to come up with a solution or plan to turn the tables around. Yu LianZhou secretly thought to himself, “If even fourth brother is at lost with what to do, I’m afraid that today the blood of Wu Dang's six disciples will have to soak the earth of this mountain.” If they were fighting one on one, amongst the guests today, there probably would be none who could compete with the six heroes of Wu Dang. But the situation right now on the mountaintop was not just a case of twenty against one, but was a thirty and forty against one sort of situation.
Zhang SongXi gave a light tug at the corner of Yu LianZhou’s clothes, and the two of them went out to the quarters behind the reception hall. Once there, Zhang SongXi said, “In a moment, if all attempts at discussing and reasoning fails, we'll try to use words to pressure them into agreeing on an one on one fight with us. By using six matches to determine the winner, we will most definitely be residing in the undefeatable position. But they came with preparation and would have thought of this already, therefore they definitely won’t agree to giving up after just six matches, it most likely will end up being a gang brawl sort of situation.” Yu LianZhou nodded his head and said, “The first thing we must do is help our third brother to escape, we must not let him land into other people’s hands to suffer through more torture. I will give this task to you. I’m afraid that our sister’s health may not be very strong right now, tell fifth brother to invest all his attention on her. Other matters of countering the adversaries and defending against menaces can be left for the rest of us to chip in a little more work.”
Zhang SongXi nodded his head and said, “Alright. That’s what we will do then.” He hesitated briefly before saying, “There may still be one measure we can take, it will be a dangerous step but we may pull through if we're lucky.” Yu Lian Zhou said with jubilation, “Even if it is a dangerous step, we have no other choice. What brilliant plan do you have in mind Brother?” Zhang SongXi replied, “We can each mark a target opponent and once that person takes action, we will each strike at our opponent by using just one stance, have them under our control. That way, they will all take caution and won’t dare to pressure us through sheer force.” Yu LianZhou debated for a while before saying, “If we can’t capture them in one stance, the others will most definitely advance as backup help. But to be able to succeed with just one stance, I’m afraid …” Zhang SongXi said, “Desperate times calls for desperate measures, I’m afraid that we have no choice but to be more vicious. Let us use the ‘Tiger Claws Destroying Procreation Skill’!” Yu LianZhou was taken back as he said, “ ‘Tiger Claws Destroying Procreation Skill’? But today is master’s birthday, wouldn't it be too cruel and deadly to use such a move?”
There was still actually a very powerful grappling technique within the Wu Dang sect that was called the “Tiger Claws.” After Yu LianZhou became fully educated in this skill, he remain unsatisfied at how when the fighter clamps down, if their opponent’s martial arts were advanced enough, they will be able to struggle free using their powerful energy reservoir. Therefore it will likely end up being a competition of inner energies. He thus purposely added variations to modify the “Tiger Claws” and finally created twenty new stances.
Before Zhang SanFeng accepted his disciples, he would closely examine and test into their character and morality while also discovering what their aptitude and talents were. Therefore after the seven disciples entered the sect, there was not one who hasn't been able to achieve greatness. Not only did they each inherit their sect’s martial arts skills, but they were further able to modify and create new stances according to their own personal nature and character. It was originally not a surprising thing that Yu LianZhou would transform the stances of the “Tiger Claws.” But after Zhang SanFeng watched him demonstrate these moves, he only nodded his head and didn’t input any further remarks.
When Yu LianZhou observed how his master didn’t offer a single remark or comment, he knew that there most definitely must be some kind of problem with his stances. Therefore he concentrated his energies on examining and scrutinizing every move in hopes of further improving and advancing these stances. After a few months, when he once again demonstrated his revisions for his master, Zhang SanFeng was only heard to sigh and said, “LianZhou, these twelve stances of the Tigers claws are truly much more powerful than the ones that I taught you. But your every stance aims to attack one’s vital points. No matter who sustains this stance, they may possibly suffer the misfortune of having their Yin forces damaged and their chances of procreation ended. Are the decent and respectable stances that I taught you not enough? Must one resort to ending another’s chances of procreation with every strike?”
After Yu LianZhou heard this sermon from his master, even in the midst of the harsh cold weather, he couldn’t refrain a cold sweat all from erupting all over his back. Fear struck his heart, and he immediately admitted to his mistake and begged for forgiveness.
After a few days, Zhang SanFeng called his seven disciples to him and explained this incident to them before saying, “These twelve stances that LianZhou created was a result of hard work and honourable intentions, and are truly worthy of being considered as a ultimate skill. To abolish it based on just my one command may nevertheless be a pity. You should all learn this skill from LianZhou, but take caution to never use this skill lightly. Do not use it in anything less than a life and death situation. I will add the two words “Destroying Procreation” after the words “Tiger Claws” in order to remind you all that this skill can end all chances others have at procreation, thus running the danger of ending a whole family’s lineage.”
The seven disciples immediately expressed their gratitude for this lecture and Yu LianZhou then related this martial art skill to his six brothers. After the seven of them mastered this skill, they indeed obeyed their master’s teachings and not one of them has used this skill even once. Even during such a critical juncture, when Zhang SongXi brought this up, Yu LianZhou still debated and and continue to hesitate.
Zhang SongXi said, “Once this ‘Tiger Claws Destroying Procreation Skill’ grapples onto other’s vital points, there is a chance that it will end their chances of procreation. Your brother I have a plan, we can choose only monks or Taoist priests as our opponents, or if not, then old men in their seventies and eighties will also be suitable.” Yu LianZhou smiled faintly and said, “Brother, your vigilant thinking is not only nimble but also ingenious. Since monks and Taoists priests will not be having any children, to use this move on them is acceptable.”
After the two brothers finished discussing their plans, the split up to inform Song YuanQiao and the other three brothers. Each one of them targeted a specific opponent and as soon as they hear a loud shout of “a-yo” from Zhang SongXi, the six of them would each use the “Tiger Claws Destroying Procreation Skill” to capture their opponents. Yu LianZhou selected the oldest of the Kong Tong elders Guan Neng, while Zhang CuiShan chose Kun Lun's taoist priest XiHua Zi.
After the various guests finished their simple meal, the culinary workers took away the eating utensils. Zhang Song Xi then loudly said, “Honoured heroes and fellow friends, today is our master's hundredth year birthday. To be graced by the presence of so many heroes today fills everyone in our sect with glory and honour. But please do forgive us for the bareness and inefficiency in our reception here today. Our master had originally planned to invite all our respected guests to WuChang town's Yellow Crane Restaurant for a festive gathering. During that date, we most certainly will make up for the discourtesy in our reception here today. My brother Zhang CuiShan has been separated from us for ten years now, and it was just today that he finally returned to us from afar. He has not even had the chance to explain in detail to my master all of which he has encountered and experienced within the last ten years. Besides, today is our master’s big celebration, if we bother ourselves with discussing about the martial art world’s various scores of gratitude and vengeance, duels and deaths, it may be a very untimely and inappropriate thing to do. Our honoured guests’ pure intentions of offering birthday blessings will then turn into a purposely contrived plan of coming here to incite disharmony and create more trouble. Very seldom will all our honoured guests be gathered together here at Wu Dang, please allow me the honours of accompanying everyone for a tour around the mountain where we can appreciate the scenery.”
This speech from him caused everyone to be at a loss for words. By stating ahead of time that today was a blessed day of celebration, if anybody mentioned Xie Xun and Dragon Gate Escort Agency’s incident, then they are purposely and openly making enemies with the Wu Dang Sect.
These groups of people arrived on the mountain one after another, and aside from the E-Mei sect, they were all originally prepared to engage in a good battle in order to force out the whereabouts of the Golden Mane Lion King Xie Xun. But the Wu Dang sect’s great fame was so authoritative and respected, nobody dared to make enemies with the Wu Dang sect on their own. If these few hundred people all rushed forward as one group, they would of course have nothing to be worry about. But when requiring somebody to stand out by themselves to make the first move, nobody wanted to take on the role of the sacrificial lamb.
Everyone looked at each other in a moment of uncomfortable silence. Kun Lun sect’s XiHua Zi stood up and shouted loudly, “Hero Zhang SongXi, there’s no need to strike first with your words. We’re all forthright people and there’s no need to beat around the bush. We will be honest with you, the purpose of our visit to the mountain today is firstly to celebrate Master Zhang’s birthday, but then we would also like to find out about the bandit Xie Xun’s current whereabouts.
Muo ShengGu’s simmering anger has been bottled up for most of the day. At this moment, he could no longer hold back anymore as he laughed coldly and said, “Oh really? So that’s how it is, no wonder, no wonder!” XiHua Zi’s pair of eyes flared up as he asked, “What do you mean by ‘no wonder’?” Muo Sheng Gu replied, “I just heard a moment ago that you came to Wu Dang today for the celebration of my master’s birthday, but than at the same time you would all secretly carry weapons on yourselves. That makes me wonder, did all of you bring your precious sabers and esteemed swords here today because you wanted to present it to my master as a birthday gift? It’s only now that I understand what a priceless gift you’re all delivering here.” XiHua Zi smacked his hand against the table and then immediately undid his robe before loudly saying, “Hero Muo, take a good and close look. Don’t learn to frame and slander other people's honour at such a young age. Where do you see any weapons on our bodies?”
Muo ShengGu laughed coldly and said, “Very good. There indeed aren’t any,” and he then extended two fingers to lightly tug on the belt of the two people standing beside him. His movements were so quick, with just this one tug he was able to snap apart the belt on those two people. Immediately clanking and clanging sounds were heard sequentially as two short daggers fell to the ground, its dazzling glint catching everybody's eyes. With this, everyone’s countenance underwent a great change while XiHua Zi roared out, “That’s right. If Hero Zhang won’t reveal to us Xie Xun’s current whereabouts, then who knows? We may very well have to resort to our sabers and swords!”
Zhang SongXi was just about to loudly shout out the secret code “a-yo” in order to take advantage of striking out first when suddenly from outside the door drifted in a voice that said, “Amita Buddha.” This Buddhist incantation very clearly transmitted into everybody’s ear drums, ringing out loud and clear. Though it appeared to be coming from afar, yet when heard it also sounded as if it was spoken by somebody right beside you.
Zhang SanFeng smiled and said, “The Shaolin sect's Abbot Kong Wen has arrived, hurry out and receive him.” The voice from outside was immediately heard to reply, “Shaolin's Abbot Kong Wen along with his fellow martial art brothers Kong Zhi, Kong Xing and sect disciples have come to wish Grand Master Zhang a thousand autumns of eternal happiness.”
The three monks Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing were the figures that
8comprised the group known as the Four Divine Reverends of
Aside from Reverend Kong Jian who has died, the other three Reverends has all arrived here today. In the midst of his shock, Zhang SongXi was unable to give that shout of “a-yo.” Now that Shaolin's supreme martial artists have arrived here on Wu Dang, he knew then even if the six brothers can use the "Tiger Claws Destroying Procreation Skill” to control Kun Lun and Kong Tong sect's key figures, it would still be useless.
Kun Lun sect's sect-master He TaiChong said, “I've long heard of the Shaolin Divine Reverends' great name. To have the chance of encountering all three here today certainly made this a worthy trip.” Another somewhat low and husky voice from outside the door was heard to say, “This must be Kun Lun's sect leader Mister He. It is a pleasure, a pleasure indeed. Grand Master Zhang, the three of us have arrived here much too late to celebrate your birthday, it truly is discourteous of us.” Zhang SanFeng replied, “The number of guests concentrated here on top of the Wu Dang mountain today are as vast as the clouds, this old man has only lived a hundred years of an unimportant life, how can I possibly bother the three Divine Reverends' to make such a trip?”
Through the generation of their internal energies, these four people were able to exchange words through the separation of several partitions, each conversing with the effortless ease akin to having a casual conversation with somebody standing right in front of them. The internal energies of E-Mei sect's revered nuns Jing Xuan and Jing Xu, Kong Tong's Guan Neng, Zong WeiXia, Tang WenLiang, Chang JingZhi and the likes' did not reach this level, thus naturally they could not join in on the conversation. The figures belonging to the rest of the sects and clans were even more astonished, while within their hearts they were simultaneously feeling shame at their inability to compare.
Zhang SanFeng brought his disciples along with him as they started to step outside in order to greet them, but immediately they saw the three Divine Reverends slowly walk into the reception hall, bringing in nine other monks along with them.
Abbot Kong Wen's white eyebrows drooped downwards to almost cover over his eyes, very much like a long browed LoHan. Kong Xing's body was robust and broad, while his expression was similarly forceful and quite commanding. As for Kong Zhi, his whole face was marked by sorrow, and even the corners of his mouth turned downwards. Song YuanQiao was secretly surprised, for he was well acquainted with the art of face reading. He thought to himself, “The typical person born with Reverend Kong Zhi's physiognomy would suffer such a fate that even if they don't have a short life span, they will at least experience unexpected calamities early in life. Why is it that he not only enjoys the pleasure of longevity, but will also end up being what all people of the martial arts world accept as a Grand Master? It seems that my knowledge in the art of face reading is still much too amateurish.”
Even though Zhang SanFeng along with Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing were all Grand Masters of the martial arts world, yet they have never encountered each other before. In terms of age, Zhang SanFeng was thirty to forty years older than the three Reverends. He originated from the Shaolin sect, and if using his master Jue Yuan as a measure to determine generational rank and hierarchy, then he would actually be two generations above the likes of Kong Wen. But since he never officially took the commandment to become a monk within Shaolin, and because he never officially learned any Shaolin martial arts from the monks, therefore they all treated each other in the manner of equals. But Song YuanQiao and his brothers were actually reduced a generation.
Zhang SanFeng welcomed Kong Wen into the reception hall. He TaiChong, revered nun Jing Xuan, Guan Neng and the likes all game forward to greet them, each offering their words of respect and admiration, bringing forth another round of formal courtesies. Coincidently, the Abbott Kong Wen was extremely humble and would join his palms to greet every junior in each clan and each pupil of every sect, offering a few formal words of greeting, bring forth a moment of cluttered confusion before a few hundred people could all be acknowledged.
The three Divine Reverends Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing all sat down and took a sip of green tea. Kong Wen then said, “Grand Master Zhang, in terms of age and generational ranking, this worthless monk is your junior. Today, aside from offering you birthday blessings, all other stuff should originally not be mentioned. But since this worthless monk shameless takes on the title of Shaolin's Head Abbot, there are therefore a few words which I must reveal to Grand Master Zhang with utmost honesty.”
Zhang SanFeng has always been a resolute and frank person, thus he spoke with utmost honesty, “Divine Reverends, did you come here today because of my fifth ranking disciple Zhang CuiShan?” When Zhang CuiShan heard his master mention his name, he immediately stood up. Kong Wen replied, “Yes indeed. We have two things that we have to ask Hero Zhang. The first thing concerns Hero Zhang murdering seventy-one lives of an agency belonging to a Shaolin disciple's Dragon Gate Escort Agency, and then further killing six Shaolin monks. All together, it comprises seventy-seven lives, how should this situation be handled? The second thing is, our older martial arts brother Reverend Kong Jian lived a life of beneficence and morality, though never competeting with anyone for anything, yet in the end would die a terrible death under the murderer Golden Mane Lion King Xie Xun's hands. It's rumoured that Hero Zhang you are aware of this bandit Xie's whereabouts, we ask you to please point us to the right direction.”
Zhang CuiShan replied in a clear voice, “Abbot Kong Wen, the murdering of the seventy-seven lives of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency and Shaolin sect was not your respectful pupil's doing. I, Zhang Cui Shan have been disciplined and shaped by my honoured teacher. Though I may be a piece of untalented and incompetent material, yet I would never dare to tell a single lie. As for the identity of the person who took the lives of the seventy-seven people, your humble pupil is indeed aware of whom this person is, but I do not desire to reveal the truth. That is the first issue. As for the second issue, there is nobody of the world who was not saddened and desolate over the Reverend Kong Jian's untimely departure from the world. However, the Golden Mane Lion King and your young pupil I are sworn brothers. To be honest, your humble pupil I am aware of the current whereabouts of Xie Xun, but those of us in the martial arts world value and honour the word “Righteousness” more than anything. Zhang CuiShan's head can fall and my blood can spill, but I most definitely will not reveal my sworn brother's whereabouts. This incident has absolutely nothing to do with my revered teacher and my fellow sect members, anything and everything will be accounted for by Zhang CuiShan's solitary self. If everyone must insist on using death as a threat, then whether you choose to come forward for a kill or to administer a blow, then go ahead. In Zhang CuiShan's whole life, he has never done one thing that will disgrace or sully the honour of his sect and has never killed one undeserving person. But if everyone wants to force me to be unrighteous today, then I can only use death as my answer.” These words of Zhang Cui Shan were spoken with boldness, his expression one of justified rectitude.
Kong Wen murmured a “Amita Buddha” while thinking to himself, “From his words, it really doesn't sound like he's lying. What should be done now?”
It was at this moment when from outside the long windows of the reception hall suddenly came a young child's voice that cried, “Father!”
There was a big thump in Zhang CuiShan's heart for this voice belonged to WuJi. He loudly responded, “WuJi! You've come back?” and immediately dashed outside while caught up in the midst of his bewildered joy. Wu Shan sect and Heavenly Fists Clan each had someone standing by the door of the reception hall. They only conjectured that Zhang CuiShan must be trying to escape therefore shouted out simultaneously, “Where do you think you're going?” and extended their hands to clamp down. Zhang CuiShan was filled with haste due to the extreme concern for his child, thus with a contraction of his two arms, caused the two people to fly back separately into the left and right directions for more than a few dozen feet due to the impacting shock. After rushing out beyond the long windows, he only saw a mass of emptiness and silence. Where is there even a trace of a person's shadow? He loudly cried, “WuJi, WuJi!” but no reply was heard.
The people within the reception hall have already rushed out, but when seeing that Zhang CuiShan hasn't escape, did not advance to capture him and only stood by a side watching over him.
Zhang CuiShan continued to cry, “WuJi, WuJi!” but was again met with no answer. By this time, Yin SuSu's health had already recovered a fair bit, therefore even from the back room she could faintly discern her husband crying “WuJi” and immediately bolted outside, crying in a trembling voice, “Did WuJi return?” Zhang Cui Shan replied, “I thought I heard his voice just a moment ago. But when I chased outside, there was nobody.” Greatly disappointed, Yin SuSu murmured, “It must your longing for our child that induced you to hear wrong.” For a while, Zhang Cui Shan was in a state of stupefied shock, but he then shook his head and said, “I heard him, I know I did.” He then hurriedly said, “Go back inside” for he worried that there would be further trouble if his wife interacted with the crowd of guests.
After he returned to the reception hall, he approached Kong Wen and bowed before saying, “In the midst of pining to be reunited with my little child, your unworthy student dared to be so discourteous, may Reverend Abbot you please forgive me.”
Kong Wen said, “Such is well, such is well. Hero Zhang, your fervent longing for your beloved son is so full of anguish, yet did you really think that all those people who were murdered by Xie Xun did not have a father, mother, wife and children as well?” His body was very small and skinny, but his every word was spoken with booming clarity, reverberating in the eardrums of all the people within the reception hall. Zhang CuiShan's heart was in a state of befuddlement grief and could find no words to respond.
Abbot Kong Wen then turned to Zhang SanFeng to say, “Grand Master Zhang, how do you suggest we should handle today's issues? I'd like to ask master you to please provide for us an answer.”
Zhang SanFeng said, “This young disciple of mine may not have many worthy merits, but he most definitely would not lie to his master, and I don't think he would dare to lie to the three divine reverends. The people of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency and your sect were not killed by him and as for Xie Xun's whereabouts, that is something he refuses to reveal.”
Kong Zhi said with a cold laugh, “But there was someone who witnessed Hero Zhang CuiShan kill our sect's disciples with their very own eyes. So is it that Wu Dang disciples will never dare to offer dishonest words, while the Shaolin disciples will?” And with a wave of his left hand, three middle aged monks stepped out from behind him.
The three monks were each blind in their right eye. They were of course the monks who were blinded by Yin SuSu's silver needles at the riverside of LinAn City's XiHu, Yuan Xin, Yuan Yin and Yuan Ye.
These three monks followed Abbot Kong Wen and the others to the Wu Dang mountain, and were observed by Zhang CuiShan from the beginning. He knew within his heart that he must answer to the bloodbath by the riverside of the Xi Hu. As expected, the Abbot Kong Wen spoke not more than a few words and already brought out the three monks. Zhang CuiShan was put into a tough spot, for the person who committed the murders by the bank of the XiHu was indeed not him, yet the true culprit was now his wife. The love between the couple was deep and the faith they held towards each other was strong, how could they possibly not shield each other from harm? But now at this point and in this situation, how is one to protect the other?
Amongst the “Yuan” generation, Yuan Ye was the most hot-tempered. In accordance to his character, he would have struck out at Zhang CuiShan with all he's got the moment he saw him. But because his martial art uncles were all there, he was therefore forced to restrain himself. But at that time, it was his master who called him out, thus he immediately shouted, “Zhang CuiShan, at Lin An City's Xi Hu banks, you projected poisonous needles into the mouth of Hui Feng, taking his life. I saw that with my very own eyes, did you think I was framing you? The three of us were blinded in the right eye by your silver needles, did you still want to confound us and lay blame on others?”
At this point, Zhang CuiShan could only argue point for point as he said, “Although we do use a pretty extensive range of weapons within the Wu Dang sect, yet they are all large sized projectiles along the likes of steel darts and sleeve arrows. My six fellow sect members and myself have been around in the martial arts world for quite a while now, but has there been anyone who's seen a Wu Dang disciple use any gold or silver needles type of weapons? As for acts such as coating poison onto the needles, that is a concept even more undeserving of my refute.”
The ways and actions of the seven heroes of Wu Dang have always been honourable and upright, that was something everybody within the martial arts world knew. Therefore all the martial art fighters that were gathered together here on the mountain truly found the idea of Zhang CuiShan using poisonous needles to harm others hard to believe. Yuan Ye shouted with anger, “Even at this point, you're still trying to deny it? That day when you used needles to kill Hui Feng, my martial arts older brother Yuan Yin and myself clearly witnessed and discerned everything clearly and without any further doubt. If it wasn't you, then who was it?” Zhang CuiShan replied, “Just because there was somebody in your sect who fell into harm and injury, that gives you right to come to our Wu Dang sect and request us to tell you who the culprit was that injured your sect members? Since when was such a rule established?” Zhang CuiShan's intellect was quick and his tongue was sharp, he was good with words and skilled in debating. In the midst of his anger, Yuan Ye's words were becoming increasingly nonsensical, causing what was originally a very justified incrimination to suddenly become akin to an unreasonable allegation.
Zhang SongXi immediately added, “Brother Yuan Ye, at present it's still not possible to ascertain who it was that wounded those Shaolin monks. However, our sect's Yu DaiYan was most definitely injured under the hands of Shaolin's Golden Steel Fingers. Everyone has come here at just the right time, we were just planning to inquire about who was the culprit that used the Golden Steel Fingers to injure my third brother?”
Yuan Ye's mouth gaped open and was completely tongue tied. He could only stutter out the words, “Not me.”
Zhang SongXi gave out an icy laugh and said, “I know it wasn't you. I doubt that you would have that kind of power.” After pausing a while, he continued, “If my third brother was perfectly healthy when he was exchanging stances with your revered sect's skilled fighters, then even if he was injured under the Golden Steel Fingers, he can only blame himself for being unable to excel in martial arts. Since in all types of battles and martial art exchanges, injuries and even deaths will likely occur, what else can he say? Can any guarantee be established before a fight that can warrant that a single strand of hair will not be harmed? But at that time, my brother was severely ill, he wasn't able to move even a single finger on his body. That Shaolin disciple used Golden Steel Finger to brutally cripple his arms and legs in order to force him to reveal the whereabouts of the Dragon Saber.” Having gotten to this point, he raised his voice to cry out, “You would think that Shaolin's martial arts eclipses over the whole martial arts world already, and they have also long been considered as the martial arts world's most venerable sect. Why must you still desire to possess the precious Dragon Saber in order to be satisfied? Besides, my third brother has only seen that Dragon Saber once, but the methods employed by your revered sect's disciples are really much too inhuman and atrocious. Within the martial arts world, Yu DaiYan can still be considered as possessing of some respectful fame. Within his whole life, he has only committed heroic and righteous acts of charity, doing many good deeds for the martial arts world. Now, because of a Shaolin disciple, he's crippled for his whole life, causing him to spend these last ten years lying on his bed unable to get up. We were just planning to ask the three divine reverends, what does Shaolin plan to do about this?”
Because of Yu DaiYan's injuries and the deaths of the whole Dragon Gate Escort Agency, Shaolin and Wu Dang have already spent much time over these debates. But they were never able to come to a conclusion because of Zhang CuiShan's disappearance. Zhang SongXi purposely brought out this case again when he observed Kong Wen and Yuan Ye all speak with such forceful justification.
The Abbot Kong Wen said, “I have already gone over this before. The disciples within our sect have already been investigated and questioned over in detail already. Nobody from our sect harmed Hero Yu.”
Zhang SongXi reached his hands into his pockets and brought out a golden nugget, the finger marks left on the gold nugget can be clearly seen. He loudly exclaimed, “As all heroes can see, the culprits responsible for my brother Yu's injuries is the Shaolin disciple who left these marks on the golden nugget. Aside from the Shaolin sect's Golden Steel Finger, which school and which sect can boast to have a martial art skill that can produce such a mark on gold?”
Yuan Yin and Yuan Ye were trying to incriminate Zhang CuiShan based soley on their words, but Zhang SongXi was able to produce material evidence which would of course be much more convincing than proof-less conjectures and empty words.
Kong Wen said, “May the Buddha have mercy. Aside from the three of us brothers, there are also three other elders within our sect who have been able to master this skill of the Golden Steel Fingers. But these three elders have not stepped out of Shaolin's doors for thirty or forty years now. How would they be able to harm Hero Yu?”
Muo ShengGu suddenly chimed in, “Revered abbot, you wouldn't believe my fifth brother's words because you insist that his defense was based solely on the testimonial of just his one person, but are the words of Revered abbot you not also based on just your sole defense?”
Abbot Kong Wen's character was quite gracious and even though he recognized the disrespect in Muo ShengGu's words, he was not angry and only said, “If Hero Muo you don't believe this old monk's words, then there's nothing I can do.” Muo ShengGu said, “How could your humble pupil I possibly dare to not believe revered abbot's words? But things in life are often unpredictable and prone to change. What is right, wrong, true and false will often turn out to be contrary to one's expectations. You only insist that the fellow Shaolin monks were injured under my fifth brother's hands, and we also believe that my third brother must have been injured under the fingers of a skilled Shaolin fighter. But it may very well be that are still secret twists unbeknownst to us all. According to your unworthy pupil's views, these incidents still requires further examination and reconsideration in order to not disturb the harmony between the Shaolin and Wu Dang sects. If we handle things in a crass or crude manner, then one day when the truth is finally revealed, there will only be regrets.” Kong Wen nodded his head and said, “Hero Muo's words are right indeed.”
Kong Zhi shouted with severe anger, “But are we just going to forget about the wrongful murder of our martial arts brother Kong Jian? Hero Zhang, we can put aside the death of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency for the time being. But today, if you are willing to reveal the whereabouts of the vicious bandit Xie Xun, then you better start revealing it because even if you are not willing to speak, we're still going to make you speak!” Up to this moment, Yu LianZhou has been silent, but seeing that the situation has reached a deadlock, he said loudly, “If the Dragon Sabre was not in the hands of Xie Xun, would Reverend still be so concerned about capturing him?” He didn't say much, but just these two lines were already powerful enough, for he was outright reprimanding Kong Zhi as harbouring the unhonourable intentions of desiring to covet a precious treasure.
Kong Zhi was extremely enraged and with a slap, smashed his palm down upon the wooden table in front of him. With a bang, the table's four legs broke simultaneously as the table immediately shattered and the wooden splinters of the tabletop spewed everywhere. The immense force harboured within that palm was frightening. He roared with rage, “I've long heard that Grand Master Zhang's martial arts originated from Shaolin, but the word within the martial arts world has it that Master Zhang's martial arts excels beyond that of his originator. We've long been admirers even though we may not have been able to ascertain whether there is indeed truth in this rumour. Today, in the presence of the world's heroes, let us take this opportunity to boldly ask Grand Master Zhang to teach us a thing or two by exchanging a few stances with us!”
As soon as he said these words, all the fighters within the room were brought to an excited state of frenzy. It has now been seventy years since Zhang SanFeng made a name for himself, but all the fighters who had the chance to combat with him have all died over time. There was not a single one of them left in this world who can testify to exactly how fathomless his martial arts were. Thus, even though there were all sorts of extraordinary and fantastic legends circulating within the martial arts world, nobody aside from his seven exclusive disciples had the chance to witness Zhang SanFeng's brilliance with their very own eyes. But Song YuanQiao and his brothers have stunned and dazzled the world with the celebrated name of the Seven Heroes of Wu Dang. If just the disciples can already be seen to have such powers, it would be hard to imagine much less describe what heights their master's abilities would reach.
When the people outside of the Shaolin and Wu Dang sect heard Kong Zhi publicly declare a challenge against Zhang SanFeng, there was not a single person who was not roused into a state of excitement. They were all thinking within their heads that this was certainly turning out to be a worthwhile trip now that they had the chance to witness with their very own eyes the power of the present era's number one martial artist.
Everyone's eyes immediately shot towards Zhang SanFeng's face, anticipating his response of whether or not he was going to give his consent. But he was only seen to smile faintly and did not reveal whether he was going to accept the challenge or not.
Kong Zhi continued, “Grand Master Zhang's martial art abilities crowns over his era, and since he is already undefeatable within the world, the three of us are of course not your match. But since the situation has been forced to this point, I'm afraid that the entanglements between our two sects cannot be resolve if we don't settle it through a martial arts competition. Since master you are two generations above us, it would be much too disrespectful if we fought you one on one. Forgive us for daring to overestimate our capabilities, but we will combine the power between the three of us in order to challenge you Grand Master.”
Everyone was thinking within their hearts, “That's some gallant-sounding excuse to cover up your intentions of combating one with the power of three. Even if Zhang SanFeng's martial arts are indeed supreme, yet he is nevertheless an old man that has reached his one hundredth year, his stamina and energy must without a doubt be on the decline. He may not be able to withstand the combined attack of the three divine reverends of Shaolin.”
Yu LianZhou said, “Today is our master's hundredth year celebration, how could he possibly engage in any physical combat with his guests? ...” when everyone heard this, they all thought, “Wu Dang sect really is going to back out from accepting this challenge.” But unexpectedly, Yu LianZhou continued, “Besides, as reverend Kong Zhi has already said, my master and the three reverends are of different generational ranks, if he really did take action, wouldn't that make him guilty of the offense of picking on his juniors? But since Shaolin has stated their challenge, the seven disciples of Wu Dang will like a chance to learn from the twelve Shaolin monk's supreme martial arts.”
After these words were spoken, there was again another great rumble that went through the whole group of guests who had all started to discuss and analyze amongst each other. Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing each had three disciples who accompanied them to the mountain today, bringing the total to twelve Shaolin monks. They all knew that Yu DaiYan was completely crippled and thus there were only six out of the seven Wu Dang disciples left. To fight twelve with six is a situation based upon a one against two ratio. Such terms as delineated by Yu LianZhou really can be said to serve a self-elevating purpose for the status of the Wu Dang sect.
Yu LianZhou's move may seem to be a risky step, and in actuality it was indeed a move that he was forced into making. He was very aware that the Shaolin reverends' martial art skills were extremely powerful, and since their ages were older than him and his brothers, their cultivation would naturally be greater. If they fought one on one, his oldest brother Song YuanQiao would be able to break even with one of the reverends, but he himself was just recovering from his injuries and may not be able to withstand one of the reverends. As for the very last reverend, regardless of whether it is Zhang SongXi, Yin LiTing, or Muo ShengGu who fights that match, they most definitely will lose to the reverend. Although his terms of challenge were officially stating that the six brothers will combat against the twelve Shaolin fighters, but the other nine Shaolin disciples can be assumed to pose a very small threat. Therefore, though it seems that the Wu Dang sect was combating a larger crowd with a smaller group, in actuality it was really the Wu Dang six disciples who were combining their powers to fight the three divine reverends of Shaolin.
How could Kong Zhi possibly not understand the dynamics of such an arrangement? After scoffing with a “hmph” he then said, “Since Master Zhang won't grace us with the honour of exchanging a few stances, then let us three brothers attempt to learn a few things by facing off against three of the Wu Dang six heroes. We can determine the victor with three matches, the side who is able to win in two of the three matches will be the winner.” Zhang SongXi said, “If reverend Kong Zhi really insists on fighting one on one, then that can also be done. But amongst the seven of us brothers, aside for my third brother Yu DaiYan who is unable to descend his bed after falling prey to the deadly attacks of a Shaolin disciple, there is not one of us who dares to back out from a challenge. Therefore, let us then determine the winner through six matches, where each of the Wu Dang six disciples will face off with a Shaolin disciple, the side that can win four matches out of the six will be determined as the victor.”
Muo ShengGu loudly added, “Let's do it this way, if the Wu Dang sect loses, then my fifth brother Zhang will reveal the whereabouts of the Golden Mane Lion King Xie Xun to Shaolin sect's head abbot. But if Shaolin sect does kindly grant us the honour of winning, then we'd like to ask the three reverends along with all these guests who have come to here with the excuse of celebrating a birthday, but who are in actuality looking to stir up some trouble to please leave the mountain as a group!”
Zhang SongXi's suggestion of using a six against six method of combat can already be said to situate the Wu Dang sect in the undefeatable position. For his oldest brother and second brother's martial arts can be expected to be comparable with the three divine reverends of Shaolin. As for the rest of the Shaolin disciples, they most definitely will lose in the last three matches.
Kong Zhi shook his head while muttering, “That's not right, not right.” But at the same time, he couldn't openly admit to exactly what wasn't right about such a suggestion.
Zhang SongXi said, “When divine reverends issued a challenged to my master, you said that you wanted to fight one man using the power of three. But when we said that we will use six fighters to combat the twelve revered monks of Shaolin, reverend Kong Zhi will suddenly request to fight one on one. Fine, so we'll agree to fighting one on one, but now reverend you say that such an arrangement is not right. Why don't we just do it this way then, let your unworthy pupil I fight against Shaolin's three divine reverends by myself, then everything would be absolutely perfect right? Let the three divine reverends obliterate your unworthy pupil, then that way Shaolin can be victorious and then wouldn't that be so gratifying?” Greatly agitated, Kong Zhi's face changed colours while Kong Wen murmured a Buddhist mantra, “Amita Buddha!” Since Kong Xin arrived on the Wu Dang mountain, he has not said one word. But at this moment he suddenly said, “Brothers, since this young hero Zhang says he wants to fight the three of us by himself, then let us do that!” Because Kong Xin had practiced monasticism from an early age, therefore even though his martial arts were skilled, he was not at all acquainted with customs of the world and could not catch the sarcasm and mockery in Zhang SongXi's words.
Kong Wen said, “Hush up brother” as he turned around and said to Song YuanQiao, “We'll do this, let the six Shaolin monks face off against the six disciples of Wu Dang. We'll determine the winners with just one match.” Song YuanQiao replied, “Not the six disciples of Wu Dang, but the seven disciples of Wu Dang.”
Kong Wen was greatly taken back as he asked, “Is Master Zhang also planning to join the battle as well?”
Song YuanQiao replied, “Revered Abbot's conjectures are wrong. All fighters who have fought with my teacher have long since passed away, how can my teacher possibly act out again? However, although my third brother Yu is unable to move after being burdened by severe injuries, and while he also has no disciples, yet the seven of us brothers have always been as one body. Today, in such a confrontation that will concern life, death, glory and shame, how could he possibly stand detached without lending out a helping hand? I'll ask him to hastily find somebody and to give them a few instructions and guidelines in order for this person to substitute for him and fight on his behalf. Wu Dang's seven disciples will fight the revered monks of Shaolin as a group, it matters not whether you decide to send out seven fighters or twelve fighters!”
Kong Wen paused briefly and thought, “Within the Wu Dang sect, aside for Zhang SanFeng and his seven disciples, there hasn't been mention of any other skilled fighters. He says they'll find a last minute substitution, but what use is that? If they ask another sect's disciple to fight, then that wouldn't be a battle of the Wu Dang sect versus the Shaolin sect. He most likely was just trying to preserve the famed glory of the 'Seven Heroes of Wu Dang' when he said these words.” Therefore he gave a nod with his head and said, “Alright. Then the seven monks of Shaolin will battle Wu Dang's seven heroes.”
Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi and the others immediately understood what purpose Song YuanQiao was trying to induce with his words.
Zhang SanFeng still had one set of martial art skill that was extremely worthy of pride, it was called “Zhen Wu's Seven Spheres Formation.” The
9Wu Dang sect offered worship to the deity Zhen W and when Zhang SanFeng saw the pair of statuettes comprising of a snake and a tortoise that was always situated in front the statue of Zhen Wu, he thought to the
10 11 12
SheShan and GuiShan located at the juncture between the ChangJiang
13and the HanShui River V When he thought over the agile lightness of a long snake contrasted with the lumbering heaviness of a tortoise, he also thought to how the diety Zhen Wu was able to place his leg on the shell of a tortoise while his right leg rested on the body of a snake, thus capturing the essence of the most lithe and cumbersome objects' fundamental nature. He immediately took off that moment, journeying through the night to arrive at the Northern areas of the HanShui River Valleys to study the two She and Gui mountains. Through the undulating twists of the SheShan and the stately stableness of the GuiShan, he was able to create an incredibly brilliant and mystical martial art skill.
However, the She and Gui mountains were so majestic in their force, that it caused the martial arts inspired by the intensity of the mountains to be so profound and boundless, that it encompassed a vast field and became something of which could not be fully implemented through one person’s power. Zhang SanFeng quietly stood by the river’s bank and for three days abstained from drinking a single drop of water or consuming a tiny morsel of food. He concentrated all his energies into mulling over this skill, yet was still unable to solve this problem. But during the early dawn of the fourth morning, he watched the sun rise from the East to cast a million streaks of wavering golden slithers and flickering spots of sparkling illuminations on the face of the river. He was suddenly enlightened and after engaging in a hearty laugh, he returned to the Wu Dang mountain and brought his seven disciples to him in order to relate a martial art skill to each one of them.
These seven different forms of martial arts when executed separately is of course each an embodiment of brilliance and exquisiteness in their own right, but if two people combine their efforts, the brothers can support and facilitate each other by simultaneously fostering their attack while maintaining their defence, causing their power to be increased even further. If three people simultaneously executed their moves, their power would be double that of the combined effort of two individuals. The power of four people would equal to that of eight first rate fighters while five people amounts to the force of sixteen fighters and six fighters will be equivalent to thirty-two fighters. By the time they can gather the efforts of seven fighters simultaneously, it would be analogous to having the collective force of sixty- four of the present era’s first-rate fighters attacking all at once. Within the present era, the number of martial artists who can be classified as a first rate fighter was merely a small list comprised of twenty or thirty people, what are the chances of having the opportunity to gather together all these first rate fighters? Even if they could be gathered together, within these fighters there were the good and the evil, the compassionate and the malicious, how could they possibly co-operate together as a group?
Because this skill of Zhang SanFeng’s was inspired by the tortoise and snake statues that stood by the foot of deity Zhen Wu, it was therefore titled as the “Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation.” At that time, he painstakingly pondered over the difficulty in making up for the vacancy in the west end while one watched over the east, which would simultaneously afford opponents with the chance of taking advantage of the exposed vacancy in the Southern and Northern ends. It was only later when he came up with the solution of directing his seven disciples to execute this skill as a group was he finally able to resolve this problem. Although he couldn’t help but be a little disappointed over the fact that this “Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation” could not be worked out in such a way so as to enable just one person to executed it, but when he thought to, “If this skill really can be executed through the power of just one person, then wouldn’t that mean just one person’s power would be enough to defeat the combined force of sixty- four first rate fighters? Is that not a much too absurd and arrogant idea?” and couldn’t help himself from laughing while being at a complete loss of words.
Since the Seven Heroes of Wu Dang have made their name within the martial arts world, there has not been an encounter in which they were not able to achieve the upper hand. Regardless of how powerful of an opponent they may be pitted up against, the most they would require would be just the combined efforts of two or three brothers in order to conquer and be victorious. This “Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation” has not been used even once. At the present moment, Song YuanQiao knew that they were faced with great adversaries, for nobody really knew exactly how powerful the three divine reverends of Shaolin were. Though he thinks that he may be able to equally tie one of them, these were nevertheless overconfident conjectures on his own part. It could very well be that he would be thoroughly defeated as soon as he struck out, which was why he was suddenly reminded of the treasured secret weapon of the Wu Dang sect, the never-been-used “Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation.”
When he heard Abbot Kong Wen agreeing to fight the seven heroes of Wu Dang with seven Shaolin disciples, he then said, “We’d like to ask our respected guests to please wait here for a moment while we went and asked our third brother to find a successor right away in order to comprise the correct number for the seven disciples of Wu Dang.” Then with a look at Yu LianZhou and the others, the six brothers all respectfully bowed to Zhang SanFeng and asking to be excused before retreating into the inner rooms.
Muo ShengGu was the first one to speak, “Eldest brother, let us use the ‘Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation’ today and show those Shaolin monks the capabilities of a Wu Dang disciple. But who should we ask to replace our third brother?” Song YuanQiao replied, “I think concerning this matter, we should all come to a decision together. Let us not say anything right now. Each one of us will write a name on our palms and then we’ll see what the general consensus is.” Muo ShengGu said, “Alright!” and immediately took out a pen which he handed over to Song YuanQiao. Song YuanQiao wrote a few words on his palm and then clenched together his fists before handing the pen over to Yu LianZhou. Everyone took turns writing and then revealed their answers simultaneously. Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou and Zhang SongXi all wrote the words “Fifth Sister.” Zhang CuiShan wrote the two words “Zhuo Jing,” whereas Yin LiTing’s whole face had flushed a deep red while he refused to reveal his answer by tightly clenching together his fist. Muo ShengGu said, “Hey that’s strange, what are you hiding?” and pried open his fist only to see that on his palm were written the words, “Miss Ji.”
Zhang CuiShan was genuinely touched as he took Yin LiTing’s hands and said, “Brother!” Everyone understood that Yin LiTing was being considerate of the fact that because Yin SuSu was just beginning to recover from her illness, it was thus not very suitable for her to engage in battle. Therefore he would rather ask Ji XiaoFu, his own future wife to participate in the battle instead. Muo ShengGu had originally wanted to tease him but Zhang CuiShan immediately shot him a look to prevent him. Song YuanQiao thus said, “Fifth brother, please go and ask sister to come out then.”
Zhang CuiShan returned to his bedroom and brought out Yin SuSu before briefly outlining what the situation was like outside in the reception hall. Yin SuSu said, “The lives of the whole Dragon Gate Escort Agency, Hui Feng and the other Shaolin monks were all ended by me. But at that time, I still haven’t met CuiShan yet. I don’t want this incident to burden the Wu Dang sect anymore, let me go and tell them to go and settle these scores with my father’s Heavenly Eagle sect instead.”
Zhang SongXi said, “Sister, why continue to differentiate between you and I at this point? Besides, I believe that though these people ascended the mountain today by using the Dragon Gate Escort Agency incident as their excuse, their true goal is to interrogate about Xie Xun. Similarly, their interrogation of Xie Xun for the purpose of revenge is again just another excuse, while getting their hands on the Dragon Saber comprises their true purpose.” Muo ShengGu said, “Fourth brother's words are absolutely right. Their main desire is to covet the Dragon Saber, and regardless of what, they will try to force you to reveal the details of the treasured saber.” Zhang CuiShan said, “Years ago, the Reverend Kong Jian told my brother Xie Xun that concealed within the Dragon Sabre was a martial arts manual that can render its practitioner invincibility and the ability to conquer and dominate the whole martial arts world. Since Kong Jian was aware of this secret, then Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing must also know as well.”
Yin SuSu said, “If that is the case, I will follow eldest brother's every command. But your unworthy sister's martial arts are so lowly, how can I fully comprehend the brilliance of the ‘Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation’ in such a brief moment of time?”
Song YuanQiao replied, “In all honesty, by just combining the power of the six of us brothers to combat the seven Shaolin monks is already sufficient enough to secure our victory. But if sister you can participate on our third brother’s behalf by acting as his successor, then I’m sure that he will be incredibly grateful.”
The hearts of the six heroes of the Wu Dang all beated together as one, and the purpose behind them asking Yin SuSu to participate in the battle was not for the sake of combating the adversaries, but rather it was for Yu DaiYan's sake. It should be understood that if the Six Heroes of Wu Dang combined their efforts to attack, the power of the “Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation” would already be equivalent to the power of thirty two first rate fighters. Even if the three divine reverends did turn out to be very powerful, and even if there was some unknown first rate fighter amongst the disciples who accompanied them on this trip, yet even combining the power of all seven of them, it can be ascertained that there absolutely could be no way for them to turn out as being comparable to the combined power of thirty two first rate fighters. But ever since their master had taught them this “Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation,” they never had the chance to use it. Today, they will clench victory with just one battle and defeat all three divine reverends of Shaolin, if Yu DaiYan cannot share this victorious glory, melancholy will most definitely fill his heart. Therefore Song YuanQiao and the others wanted Yin SuSu to learn the stances from Yu DaiYan and stand in as his substitution. That way, when the legend of this battle gets passed down amongst the martial arts world in the future, Yu DaiYan can still be considered as having partaken a role in this battle even if he didn't physically join in, and they will still be spoken of as the “Seven Heroes of Wu Dang.”
The mutual understanding and genuine compassion that the brothers held towards each other were all discerned by Yin SuSu through just two three words, and therefore she said, “Alright, then I will ask our third brother to teach me. But my martial arts is much too inferior when compared to the rest of you, I just hope that I won’t get in the way and end up being a burden later.” Yin LiTing said, “Don’t worry, that won't happen. As long as you remember the steps and directions of the formation, that would already be good enough. Even if you happen to forget anything during the battle, we will all be there to remind you.”
Therefore, the seven of them all went over to Yu DaiYan’s bedroom. Since Zhang CuiShan returned home, he has already had a few talks with Yu DaiYan, but because Yin SuSu was ridden with illness, it was only until now did she finally have the chance to officially go see Yu DaiYan.
When Yu DaiYan saw the elegant exquisitness of her beautiful face and observed the gentle grace in her manners, he became very happy for his brother. Then he was filled with a desolate heartache when he heard Song YuanQiao say that she wanted to act as his substitution to participate in the “Zhen Wu Seven Spheres Formation” which they will form in order to counter the three divine reverends of Shaolin. But he has been crippled for ten years now and have gotten used to many things. Therefore with a faint smile he said, “Sister, your third brother I don't have anything good to give to you as a welcoming present. Now in this moment of haste, I can only relate to you the steps and directions of this formation. After the adversaries have retreated, I will explain to you in detail the variations and practicing methods to this formation.”
Yin SuSu replied with elated joy, “Thank you third brother.”
This was the first time that Yu DaiYan heard her open her mouth to speak, but when he suddenly heard her say the four words “Thank you third brother,” the facial muscles on his face began to contort and quiver uncontrollably while his two eyes stared blankly ahead, completely lost in thought. Zhang CuiShan asked with alarm, “Brother, are you not feeling well?” Yu DaiYan did not respond, but remained lost in a numbed, comatose state. There was a strange look in his eyes, an expression that communicated both pain and hatred. It was as if he was suddenly reminded of one of the most hated experiences of his life.
When Zhang CuiShan turned around to look at his wife, he found that her expression had also changed suddenly as well, there was a mixture of horror and anxiety written all over her face.
Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou and the others looked at Yu DaiYan and then looked over at Yin SuSu, not understanding why the expression of these two people would suddenly become so strange. Everyone's heart was filled with a premonition that something terrible would happen. The room had suddenly become a mass of oppressing silence, so quiet that the heartbeat of each person could almost be heard.
Yu DanYan's breathing was heard to grow increasingly rapid, and a faint flush erupted over his pale cheeks. In a low voice he said, “Sister, please come over here and let me take a look at you.” Yin SuSu's whole body was visibly shaking while she actually refused to approach Yu DaiYan. She only extended her arm to tightly cling onto her husband's arm instead.
After quite a while, Yu DaiYan sighed and said, “If you don't want to come over, that's fine as well. For I never did get to see your face that day anyways. Sister, can you please repeat these words after me, 'One, you must personally lead the escort. Two, you must take the package to the Xiang Yang city without any rest, so it will arrive in ten days. Three, should there be any problems, humph, I will kill every single person in your Dragon Gate Escort Agency.'”
When everyone heard him recite these words slowly, nobody could stop their bodies from breaking out into a cold sweat. Yin SuSu ran forward a step and said, “Third brother, it truly is remarkable of you to be able to recognize my voice. That day at Lin An City's Dragon Gate Escort Agency, the person who entrusted Du DaJin with the mission of bringing you back to Wu Dang mountain was your worthless sister I.” Yu DaiYan said, “Thank you for your kindness sister.” Yin SuSu continued, “Afterwards when the Dragon Gate Escort Agency fouled up along the journey, causing brother you to end up like this, it was also your sister I who went and completely annihilated their whole family, killing everyone including even the young and old.” Yu DaiYan coldly asked, “For what reason did you treat me with such kindness?”
Yin SuSu's face was sombre as she gave a long sigh and said, “Third brother, since things have come to this stage, I can no longer conceal anything from you any longer. But I have to state ahead of time that in regards to this, CuiShan has been kept from the truth all along. I was afraid ... afraid that after he knows of the truth, he will never ... never care about me again.”
Yu DaiYan quietly murmured, “Then you don't need to say anything. I've already become a useless cripple, there's no need to persist in chasing after the past. Why ruin the relationship between the two of you for someone like me? Now, all of you go! The six heroes of Wu Dang will combat the revered Shaolin monks, victory is at hand, do not let people think that the Seven Heroes of Wu Dang is merely an empty name.”
Yu DaiYan's will was incredibly strong, and ever since he was injured, he has never moan or groaned with any form of bitterness. Originally, he couldn't even make any sounds for speech, and it was only through Zhang SanFeng's careful and skilled treatments of transferring the inner energy that he had cultivated throughout all these years into his body, was he finally able to gradually open his mouth for speech. Yet he refused to mention a single word about what happened to him that day, and it was only today did anyone finally hear him utter these few indignant words of grief. After the brothers heard these words, there was not a single person whose blood was not boiling, while sounds of crying was furthermore heard to come from Yin LiTing. Yin SuSu said, “Third brother, I know that you have already figured out the truth, but you’re only refraining yourself from revealing it because you're taking into account of the love and friendship between CuiShan and you. It’s true, that day on the waters of the QianTang River, the person who was hiding within the compartment of the boat and who used the Mosquito Needles to hurt you was your unworthy sister I ...”
Zhang CuiShan severely roared, “SuSu, was it really you? You … you … you didn't tell me this earlier!”
Yan SuSu replied, “The true culprit who injured your third brother was your very own wife. How could I possibly tell you that?” She whipped her head around again to face Yu DaiYan and said, “Third brother, afterwards, the person who concealed the Seven Stars Needles in their palms in order to wound you and cheat away the Dragon Saber in your possession was my very own brother Yin YeWang. Because there has never been any trouble or scores of vengeance between our Heavenly Eagle Sect and your Wu Dang Sect, and since we have already obtained the Dragon Saber and furthermore respect you as a venerable and tough man, we therefore asked the Dragon Gate Escort Agency to bring you back to the Wu Dang mountain. But the twists that suddenly appeared along the journey was not something we ever expected would happen.”
Zhang CuiShan’s whole body was shaking and fire seemed to be about to blaze out of his eyes. He pointed to Yin SuSu and said, “You … you really ruined me with a wicked lie.”
Yu DaiYan was heard to suddenly give a loud scream while his whole body flipped off the bed boards. With a loud thump, he fainted while falling onto the ground. The four slabs of bed boards had broken simultaneously.”
Yin SuSu took out her sword, rotated the handle around and handed it over Zhang CuiShan while saying, “CuiShan, we have been husband and wife for ten years now. To be sheltered by your compassion and be blessed by your profound love and genuine respect, I know that I can really die with no regrets now. Please kill me with one swipe of the sword in order to preserve the brotherly rightfulness between the Seven Heroes of Wu Dang.”
Zhang CuiShan took hold of the sword and was just about to lurch forward to drive the blade through his wife’s heart when in that brief flash, the last ten years all surfaced within his heart, all of the various attractive qualities such as her warm tenderness and devoted care, gentle affections and sweet sentiments. How could he possibly bring himself to pierce forward with that sword?
He remained in a state of dumbfounded shock for a moment, and then after suddenly giving out a loud scream, he dashed out of the room. Yin SuSu, Song YuanQiao and the others did not know where he wanted to go, so they all ran after him. They watched him tear out of the room and kneel on the floor in front of Zhang SanFeng, saying “Honoured master, your disciple I have made a terrible mistake, there’s no possibly of it being rectified. I would only like to beg you of one thing.”
Zhang SanFeng was not aware of what the situation was like, therefore said with a tender expression, “What is it? Just say it and there would be nothing your master would not do for you.”
Zhang CuiShan knocked his head on the floor three times and said, “Thank you respected master, your disciple I have only one cherished son who has landed in the hands of evil villains. I would like to beg esteemed master you to rescue him out of the demons' lair and raise him into an adult.” He then stood up and ran forward a few steps before turning towards reverend Kong Zhi, Mr. Iron Zither He Tai Chong, Kong Dong Sect’s Guan Neng, E-Mei Sect’s revered nun Jing Xuan and the others, declaring in a loud and clear voice, “All crimes and sins are the doing of Zhang CuiShan’s sole person only. A true man will always confront the consequences of their actions, today I’ll give everyone a satisfying answer!” As he was saying these words, he lifted his long sword and drew it across his own neck. Bright red blood immediately gushed out as his life ended right there.
Zhang CuiShan’s intentions of committing suicide was quite strong. He already predicted that his master and fellow brothers would act out to stop him the moment he drew his sword, therefore he purposely situated himself amongst the crowd of guests and stuck out immediately after he finished saying those two sentences.”
Zhang SanFeng, Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi and Yi LiTing all screamed out while rushing forward at the same time. Banging sounds rang out consecutively as the body of six or seven people flew up into the air. These were all people of whom were surrounding Zhang CuiShan and whose bodies were all blown back by the force harboured within the palms of Zhang SanFeng and his disciples. But they were still too late. Zhang CuiShan's blade had already slitted through his throat, there was no possibility of salvaging the damage. Song YuanQiao, Muo ShengGu and Yin LiTing all came out slightly later, and of course would be even further away from being able to stop Zhang CuiShan.
It was at this time when a young child's voice cried from outside the long window of the hall, “Papa! Papa!” These two cries seemed to be smothered, the mouth of this speaker was obviously being covered by someone else. With a sway of his body, Zhang SanFeng had already arrived outside the long window. All that was seen was a man dressed in the attire of a Mongolian war general, in his arms was a eight or nine year old boy. That boy's mouth was covered, but he was struggling to break freak.
Zhang SanFeng's beloved disciple has just died a terrible death, and it was as if somebody has driven a knife into his heart. But due to his cultivation of nearly one hundred years, his thoughts still remained clear. He shouted in a low voice, “Get inside!” That man gave a tap with his left leg, and was just about to leap up onto the rooftops with the kid in his arms. But his shoulders immediately slumped while his whole body seemed to be suddenly held down by an incredible weight and he found that he couldn't even lift his two feet from the ground. What had happened was Zhang SanFeng had soundlessly approached the man and placed his left hand lightly on his shoulders. That man was incredibly petrified, for he knew that all Zhang SanFeng needed to do was expel some internal energy, and even if he doesn't die right away, he most definitely will be severely injured. Therefore, he could only follow his orders and enter into the reception hall. That kid was indeed Zhang CuiShan's son, Zhang WuJi. His mouth was covered by that man, but from outside the long window he was able to witness very clearly how his father committed suicide with a slash of his sword. How could he possibly not be upset? He therefore broke free forcefully, and was finally able to release a loud scream.
Yin SuSu witnessed her husband commit suicide for her, but then suddenly she saw her son return without any harm. After her tremendous sorrow, followed great joy. She asked, “Child, did you tell them the whereabouts of your godfather?” WuJi held his head upright and said bravely, “Even if they kill me, I would not say a single word.” Yin SuSu said, “That's a good boy, come and let me hold you.”
Zhang SanFeng said, “Hand the child over to her.” That man's whole body was controlled, and had no choice but to follow Zhang's orders and passed WuJi over to Yin SuSu.
Zhang WuJi fell into his mother's embrace crying, “Ma, why did they have to push my papa to commit suicide?” Yin SuSu said, “All these people here have come up onto the mountain because they wanted to force your father to kill himself.” WuJi's little pair of eyes swept slowly from the left to the right once. Though he was young, but when everyone's eyes met up with his gaze, they couldn't help but feeling shaken within their hearts.
Yin SuSu said, “WuJi, you have to promise your mother one thing.” WuJi said, “Ma, just say it.” Yin SuSu said, “Don't rush to seek revenge, you have to be patient. But don't even let a single one of them go.” When everyone heard these few cold words from her, they couldn't help but feel a cold chill brush across their back. WuJi was heard to cry, “Ma! I don't want revenge, I only want my papa to come back to life!”
Yin SuSu said tearfully, “When a person dies, there's no way of bring them back.” Her body quivered ever so slightly as she said, “Child, since your papa has died, we may as well reveal your godfather's whereabouts to others.” WuJi hurriedly said, “No, no we can't do that!” Yin SuSu said, “Abbot Kong Wen, you are the only person whom I will reveal the secret to, please bring your ear closer.” This move was out of everyone's expectations, and they were all surprised. Kong Wen said, “All is well, all is well! If only madam you were willing to reveal this earlier, fifth hero Zhang wouldn't have to die” and approached Yin SuSu, leaning his ear over.
Yin SuSu's lips moved a few times but was not heard to emit any sounds. Kong Wen asked, “What?” Yin SuSu said, “The Golden Mane Lion King Xie Xun is hiding in ...” when she got to the words “hiding in” her voice became extremely muddled again, no audible sound was heard. Kong Wen asked again, “What?” Yin SuSu replied, “He is there, your Shaolin sect can go and find him yourselves.”
Kong Wen frantically insisted, “I didn't hear anything” while he straightened his body and lifted his hands to scratch his head, a completely confused and lost expression on his face.
Yin SuSu laughed coldly and said, “I can only tell you that much. As long as you go there, you will most definitely find the Golden Mane Lion King Xie Xun.”
She embraced WuJi and said in a low voice, “Child, when you grow up, you must take caution of woman tricking you. The more beautiful that woman is, the better of a manipulator she will be.” She then pressed her lips against WuJi's ears and whispered in an extremely soft voice, “I didn't tell that monk anything, I was only lying to him ... look at ... what a great liar your mother is!” and after a bitter, anguished laugh, her arms fell to her side as her whole body slumped down to the floor. What was immediately seen was the dagger that was stuck in her chest. She had already stabbed herself with this dagger when she was embracing WuJi, but because WuJi's body was blocking her front, nobody was able to detect it.
WuJi threw himself onto his mother's body and screamed, “Mama, mama!” But Yin SuSu had driven that dagger into herself a long time ago and had been able to hold up for quite a while already. By this time, she had eventually stopped breathing. WuJi was incredibly devastated, but not only did he not sob and cry, he actually glared at Abbot Kong Wen while asking, “It was you who killed my mama wasn't it? Why did you kill my mama?”
Having witness a series of life's great tragedies all at once, even Kong Wen, the sect leader of the present era's most revered martial arts sect couldn't stop himself from feeling incredibly shaken. After being interrogated by WuJi like this, he couldn't help but back up a few steps while frantically saying, “No, it wasn't me. She ... she was the one who killed herself.”
Tears were rolling around in WuJi's eyes, but he exerted all his strength to force back these tears, muttering, “I won't cry, I will not let myself cry, won't cry in front of all you bad people.”
The Abbot Kong Wen cleared his throat softly and said, “Grand Master Zhang, we never expected that ... ai ... ai ... that it would end up like this. Since fifth hero Zhang and his spouse has already committed suicide, then we will no longer continue to interrogate about the past. We will retreat now.” After saying these words, he pressed his palms together and bowed, while Zhang SanFeng returned a bow and said cooly, “Forgive us for not seeing you out.” All the Shaolin monks got up together, turned around and prepared to leave.
Yin LiTing shouted with anger, “You all ... you all force my brother to kill himself ...” but then he immediately thought, “Brother killed himself because he felt that he had wronged third brother, it really wasn't their fault.” Therefore having just uttered half a sentence, he didn't continue to finish it and only threw himself onto Zhang CuiShan's corpse, wailing loudly.
All the guests felt unease in their hearts as they all approached Zhang SanFeng to express their intentions of departing, while they were all thinking within their hearts, “This time, the bad blood has gotten really thick. The Wu Dang sect most definitely will not easily let us off the hook this time. There will be trouble in the future.” Song YuanQiao saw the guests out, accompanying them outside to the temple doors with reddened eyes. As soon as they stepped foot outside, he turned his head around, his tears already pouring down. Within the reception hall, all that could be heard was the sobbing from everyone in the Wu Dang sect.
E-Mei sect was the last group to leave. When Ji XiaoFu saw how devastated YinLiTing was, her eyes also reddened as she approached him and said softly: “Sixth brother, I’m leaving now. Take… Take good care of yourself.” Yin Liting’s tears obscured his vision, as he lifted his head up and chokingly asked: “Did you … did you from E-Mei Sect also come here to cause trouble for my Fifth Brother?” Ji Xiaofu hurriedly replied: “No. Our Master only wanted to ask Brother Zhang to reveal Xie Xun’s whereabouts.” She paused, bit her lip till blood flowed and tremblingly said: “Sixth brother, I … I have wronged you. Take care of yourself. I will only be able to make it up to you in the next life.” Yin Liting felt that what she said was rather excessive. He replied: “This was not your fault. We won’t blame you.” Ji Xiaofu was very pale as she said: “It’s… it’s not about this…” She did not dare continue talking to Yin Liting, so she turned to Wuji and said: “Good boy, we… we will all take good care of you.” She removed her gold necklace/neck-band and tried to put it on Wuji, saying softly: “This is for you…” Wuji jerked his head away and said: “I don’t want it!” Embarrassed and left with the necklace/neck-band in her hand, Ji Xiaofu was stunned. The tear that had been welling up in her eyes finally rolled out. Jingxuan Shi-tai frowned and said: “Ji Shi-mei, why do you have so much to say to a child? Let’s go!” Ji Xiaofu hurried after her.
Wuji had been holding back, waiting for Jingxuan, Ji Xiaofu and the others to leave, so that he could cry his heart out. But suddenly, he could not breathe and collapsed to the ground. Yu Lianzhou quickly picked him up and held him in his arms, thinking that he had fainted because of his distress and trying to hold back his tears. He massaged Wuji chest a few times and said: “Child, just cry it out.” But Wuji did not wake up. His body was as cold as ice and his breathing was weak. Yu Lianzhou channeled his internal energy into him, but Wuji still did not wake up. Seeing that Wuji looked about to die as well, everyone paled. Zhang Sanfeng pressed Wuji’s Lingtai acupoint and transferred his internal energy to him. With Zhang Sanfeng’s current internal energy cultivation, unless a person was on the brink of death, no matter how severe his injury was he would definitely improve once he received Zhang Sanfeng’s internal energy. But when the internal energy entered Wuji’s body, his face turned from white to green and from green to purple, and Wuji shaking uncontrollably. Zhang Sanfeng felt Wuji’s forehead, which was as cold as a block of ice. Alarmed, Zhang Sanfeng felt the centre of Wuji’s back under his shirt and discovered that it was blazing hot like a fire was burning, while the rest of his body was a bone-penetratingly cold. If Zhang Sanfeng internal energy had not reached such an unfathomable level, he would have shivered upon coming into contact with the cold. He said: “Yuanqiao, where is the Tartar soldier who was carrying the child? Go and find him.” Yu Lianzhou, remembering how he had been injured by the Mongol soldier and knowing that his eldest martial brother was not his match, hurriedly said: “I’ll come as well.” The two of them left the hall together. When Zhang Sanfeng dragged the Mongol soldier into the hall, Zhang Cuishan had already committed suicide. This was followed by Yin Susu also committing suicide. In the midst of their grief, no one paid any attention to the Mongol soldier and he had fled.
Zhang Sanfeng tore upon Wuji’s shirt to reveal a clear dark green colour palm-print on his back. Zhang Sanfeng gently touched his back. The area of the palm-print was burning hot, while everywhere else was icy cold. Zhang Sanfeng’s hand felt uncomfortable. This injury of Wuji’s was very severe.
Before long, Song Yuanqiao and Yu Lianzhou returned to the hall. They reported: “There are no outsiders on the mountain.” When they saw the strange palm-print on Wuji’s back, they were both shocked. Zhang Sanfeng frowned and said: “I had always thought that since Taoist Priest Bai Sun (100 Damages/Injuries) died thirty years ago, the Xuan Ming Divine Palms have been lost from this world. How could it be that there is still someone who knows this martial art?” Song Yuanqiao said with shock: “This child has suffered under the Xuan Ming Divine Palm?” He was the oldest, thus he had heard of the Xuan Ming Divine Palms. Yu Lianzhou and the other had never even heard of the name. Zhang Sanfeng sighed, he did not reply. Tears running down his face, he held Wuji in his arms. He looked at Zhang Cuishan’s corpse and said: “Cuishan, Cuishan, you studied under my tutelage and entrusted me with your last wishes. But I can’t even save your only beloved son. What’s the point of me living to a hundred? What’s the point of Wudang Sect’s fame resonating throughout the world? It would be better if I were dead!” His disciples were shocked. Since they had become his disciples, Zhang Sanfeng was always easygoing and carefree. They had never heard him say such words of all-consuming despair.
Yin Liting asked: “Master, is there … is there no hope of saving this child?” Zhang Sanfeng picked up Wuji in both arms, paced back and forth in the hall, and said: “Unless … unless my Master Jueyuan comes back to life and passes the complete 9 Yang manual to me.” The hearts of his disciples sank. Zhang Sanfeng’s words meant that there was no way of treating Wuji’s injury. Everyone was silent. Yu Lianzhou said: “Master, when I fought with that man previously, the force of his palm was very uncommonly vicious. I was injured then, but have made a full recovery.” Zhang Sanfeng replied: “That was all due to the fame of the ‘Seven Heroes of Wudang’. If the Xuan Ming Diving Palms are used on an opponent with more powerful internal energy, the force of the palms will reflect back onto the user and injure him. If you meet this man in the future, you must be very very careful.”
Yu Lianzhou said: “Yes.”. He shivered as he thought: “So that man held back during the fight, fearing that I was more powerful than him. He did not release the full force of the Xuan Ming Divine Palms, otherwise chances are that I would be dead now. If I meet him in the future, he will no longer hold back.” He then thought: “I suffered and was injured by his palm. Wuji is so young, I’m afraid … I’m afraid …”
Song Yuanqiao remarked: “From the brief glimpse I had of that man, he was around 50 years old with a high nose and deep-set eyes. He looks like he is from the Western Regions.” Mo Shenggu asked: “Why did that man kidnap Wuji only to bring him to our mountain?”
Zhang Songxi said: “The man tried unsuccessfully to force Wuji to answer his questions. So he used the Xuan Ming Divine Palms to injure Wuji. He wanted Fifth Brother and his wife to see Wuji suffer with their own eyes, and so, cannot help but reveal the Golden Hair Lion King’s location to him.”
Mo Shenggu said angrily: “This man is really daring. How dare he come to cause trouble on Wudang Mountain.” Zhang Songxi replied dejectedly: “Weren’t there many people who came to cause trouble on Wudang Mountain today? Plus that man had Wuji under his control. He anticipated that we would spare the rat to save the dishes (ie hesitate to take action for fear of hurting an innocent party) and wouldn’t dare to hurt him.” The six of them sat in silence in the hall for a long while.
Wuji suddenly opened his eyes and cried: “Dad, dad, it hurts. It’s very painful.” He clutched Zhang Sanfeng tightly, with his head resting on Zhang Sanfeng’s chest. Yu Lianzhou said sternly: “Wuji, your father has died. You have to live and learn some great martial arts, so you can avenge your father’s death.” Wuji cried: “I don’t want revenge! I don’t want revenge! I want daddy and mummy to come back to life again. Second Uncle, let’s just let all the bad people go, and concentrate on saving daddy and mummy.”
When Zhang Sanfeng heard these words, he could not help his tears rolling down again. He said: “We can all only try our very best. How long he lives will depend on heaven’s mercy.” He turned to Zhang Cuishan’s body and cried: “Cuishan, Cuishan! What an unfortunate child.”
He carried Wuji to his own room, where he sealed 18 major acupoints on his body. Wuji stopped shivering after his acupoints were sealed. The green shade of his face grew darker and darker. Zhang Sanfeng knew that when the green shade became black, Wuji would stop breathing and die. He took off Wuji’s shirt, undid his own Taoist robe, and pressed his chest onto Wuji’s back. At this time, Song Yuanqiao and Yin Liting were outside arranging Zhang Cuishan and Yin Susu’s funeral. Yu Lianzhuo, Zhang Songzi and Mo Shenggu came to their Master’s room. They knew that he was using the ‘Pure Yang Boundless Energy’ skill to transfer the cold poison from Wuji’s body to his own. Zhang Sanfeng had never married. Even though he was a hundred years of age, he was a virgin. He had cultivated this skill for eighty years. Because of all this, he had reached the pinnacle of this skill. Yu Lianzhou and the others waited by his side. About an hour later (half a shichen), Zhang Sanfeng’s face turned green and his fingers began to tremble. He opened his eyes and said: “Lianzhou, you take over. When you can’t bear it anymore, let Songxi take over. You must not continue.”
Yu Lianzhou replied: “Yes.” He removed his robe and held Wuji in his arms. When his flesh made contact with Wuji’s body, he began to shiver. It felt like he was holding a piece of ice to his chest. He said: “Seventh brother, go ask someone to bring in a charcoal brazier. The hotter it is, the better.” Not long later, the fire was lit. But Yu Lianzhou still found the cold difficult to bear.
Zhang Sanfeng sat by the side and slowly circulated his internal energy through three channels. He channeled his ‘Yin Yun Zi Qi (Dense/enshrouding Purple Qi)’ from in dantian to force the cold poison out of his body little by little. When he stood up after all the cold energy had been expelled, he saw that Mo Shenggu was holding Wuji. Yu Lianzhou and Zhang Songxi were sitting by the side in complete meditative focus, expelling the cold poison from their bodies. Not long later, Mo Shenggu could endure it no longer. He ordered a novice priest to ask Song Yuanqiao and Yin Liting to take over. From this technique of using internal energy to treat injuries, it became clear whose internal energy was strong and whose was weak. Mo Shenggu could not even tolerate it for the time it took to have a cup of hot tea. Song Yuanqiao was able to endure for the time it took to burn two incense sticks. When Yin Liting carried Wuji in his arms, he yelled loudly and his whole body shivered uncontrollably. Zhang Sanfeng ordered with alarm: “Give the child to me. Sit down, regulate your breathing and clear your mind of all thoughts.” Yin Liting had been hit so hard by Zhang Cuishan’s death that his mind and thoughts were in disarray. He had to calm his thoughts down before he could continue.
In this way, the six of them took turns over three days and three nights of relentless effort to reduce the cold poison in Wuji’s body. Each person’s turn gradually became longer and longer. After the fourth day, they could finally steal a few moments of sleep. After the eight day, each person would spend four hours a day treating Wuji injury. They could then gradually recover their own strength. At first, there was great progress in Wuji’s condition. His body grew less cold, his spirits improved and he began to eat and drink. Everyone thought that he could be saved. But on the 36th day, Yu Lianzhou found that no matter how he tried to generate energy, he could not draw out a single bit of the cold poison in Wuji’s body. But his body was still as cold as ice and the green tinge in his face remained. Yu Lianzhou assumed that his own strength was not sufficient, so he went to tell his Master about it. Zhang Sanfeng tried, but he too was unsuccessful. During the next five days, all six of them tried every method they could think of, with no success.
Wuji said: “Tai shifu (Grandmaster), my arms and legs are warm, but the top of my head, my chest and abdomen are growing colder and colder.” Zhang Sanfeng was inwardly frightened, but he soothed him saying: “Your injury is now better. We won’t need to hold you every day anymore. Just sleep on my bed for now.” He then carried Wuji to his own bed to sleep.
Zhang Sanfeng and his disciples went out to the hall. He sighed: “The cold poison has seeped into the top of his head, his chest and his dantian (the area below the belly-button, where internal energy is stored). It cannot be drawn out with external strength. It looks like our hard work over these thirty-plus days has been in vain.”
He brooded for a long while, thinking: “Outsiders can no longer help him draw out the cold poison from his body. If he cultivates the unparalleled internal energy technique in the ‘9 Yang Manual’, he may then be able to use the Yang to disperse the Yin. But when my late Master Jueyuan imparted the Manual to me, I was unable to learn it fully. Even after meditating in seclusion the last few times and trying to work it out, I can only comprehend about 30 to 40 per cent of it. For now, I can only teach him to practice the skill. If he can live an extra day, let him have that extra day.”
So he taught the techniques and the formula of the 9 Yang Manual to Wuji. The skill had many complicated variations and could not be taught all at once. He started by teaching Wuji the ‘Da Zhou Tian Ban Yun’ (Heaven transporting everywhere), to circulate the warm energy from the dantian to the ren, du and chong meridians through the ‘Yin Xiang Wei Lu (Guide Yin Through the Back Door) Gate’. And after that, to divide the energy into two and channel it through the lower back to the ‘Lu Lu (Windlass) Gate’ located on both sides of the fourteenth spinal bone. From there, the energy would be directed to the ‘Yu Zhen (Jade pillow) Gate’ on the back, shoulders and neck. This was called ‘Ni Yun Zhen Qi Tong San Guan’ (transporting the energy in reverse through three gates). After that, the energy would be directed through the ‘Bai Hui (Hundred Meetings)’ acupoint at the top of the head, divided into five streams, and channeled through the whole body through the ‘Shan Zhong’ acupoint. The energy would then be divided into two again, before coming back together in the dantian. After one complete cycle, there would be a sweet feeling in the body and the energy in the dantian would feel like incense smoke was curling upwards and circulating freely around.(Translator’s note: I have no idea what Jin Yong is talking about here. Translation might not be accurate)
This was called ‘Yin Yun Zi Qi (Dense/enshrouding Purple Qi)’. When the Yin Yun Zi Qi was practiced to a high level of achievement, the cold poison in the dantian would be expelled. There was no great difference between each school’s internal energy principles, but each school’s method of practice was different. The method taught by Zhang Sanfeng was extremely powerful and could be considered the best in the world. Zhang Wuji practiced this technique for two years, developing a significant amount of Purple Qi (Yin Yun Zi Qi) in his dantian. However, the cold poison in his body stuck firmly within his meridians and would not be dispersed. The green tinge in his face grew more noticeable each day. Each time the cold poison attacked, his suffering worsened.
During these two years, Zhang Sanfeng painstakingly watched over Wuji’s internal energy cultivation. Song Yuanqiao and the others went in search of precious medicines, hundred year old ginseng, mature Chinese knotweed (Polygonum multiflorum), mountain Fuling (Wolfiporia extensa), and other types of rare herbs. Wuji consumed all of these, but the effect was like throwing a rock into the ocean. Everyone watched him become thinner and more sickly. Even though Wuji put on a brave and cheerful front, they all could not help but feel despondent, thinking that in the end, they would not be able to save Zhang Cuishan’s only heir. Wudang Sect were preoccupied with caring for Wuji, so they had no time to search out their enemies who had injured Yu Daiyan and Wuji. During these two years, the Heavenly Eagle Sect Leader Yin Tianzheng had, a few times, sent people over to visit his grandson and deliver many valuable presents. However, the Wudang Heroes hated the Heavenly Eagle Sect for indirectly bringing disaster upon Yu Daiyan and Zhang Cuishan. Each time a representative from the Heavenly Eagle Sect arrived, the presents were rejected. On one occasion, Mo Shenggu even fiercely beat up one of the representatives. After that incident, Yin Tianzheng stopped sending people over.
During the Mid-Autumn festival, the Wudang Heroes and their Master got together for a celebration. Before the banquet could begin, Wuji suddenly became ill. His face turned green and the cold surged through his body. He did not want to ruin the festive atmosphere, so he gritted his teeth and endured the pain. But who could fail to see what was happening? Yin Liting took Wuji to his room, covered him with a blanket and lit a big fire. Zhang Sanfeng suddenly said: “Tomorrow I’ll take Wuji to the Shaolin Temple in Songshan.” Everyone understood what his intention was. In order to save Wuji’s life, he had no other alternative but to humble himself and personally beg Shaolin’s Abbot Kong Wen for help to fill the gaps in the 9 Yang Manual.
Two years ago on Wudang Mountain, Shaolin and Wudang fostered a deep enmity between them. Zhang Sanfeng was a senior master of already a hundred years of age. To now surrender his position of honour and go begging for help was a big disgrace for him. Everyone knew that from now onwards, Wudang would be unable to raise their heads with pride everytime they met Shaolin. But because of their love and relationship with Zhang Cuishan, they were willing to put aside their pride. E-Mei School too had a portion of the 9 Yang Manual, but their Headmaster (Zhang Men) Mie Jue Shi Tai’s character was extremely strange. Zhang Sanfeng had written a few letters to her and ordered Yin Liting to deliver them. However, Mie Jue Shi Tai did not even open the envelopes and merely sent them back. It looked like that apart from humbling themselves before Shaolin Sect, there was no other alternative. If Song Yuanqiao led his martial brothers up to Shaolin to beg for help, that would be better for Wudang’s face. But Reverend Kong Wen would never have revealed the secrets of their 9 Yang Manual to them. When everyone thought about how the mighty Wudang School would be humbled before Shaolin from now on, they all felt depressed. Instead of enjoying the banquet and the festivities, they simply drank a few cups of wine in melancholy before cleaning up.
Early the next day, Zhang Sanfeng and Wuji set out on their journey. His five disciples initially wanted to follow along, but Zhang Sanfeng said: “If so many of us go, Shaolin School is definitely going to become suspicious. It will better if only the two of us, one old and one young, go.”
Zhang Sanfeng and Wuji mounted black horses and headed north. Shaolin and Wudang Schools were located quite close to each other. It only took a few days to travel from Wudang in Hubei to Shaolin in Henan. After Zhang Sanfeng and Wuji crossed the Han River, they arrived in Nanyang. They then traveled north to Ruzhou, then turned to the west and headed for Mt. Song. When they reached Mt Shaoshi (a mountain the Song Shan range, Shaolin is located at its foot), they tied their horses to a tree and continued on foot. Zhang Sanfeng reminisced about the past – how over eighty years ago, his Master Jueyuan ran away from Shaolin while carrying him and Guo Xiang inside a pair of buckets. With a heart heavy with regret, he held Wuji’s hand and walked up the mountain slowly. He saw that the Five Peaks (of Mt Song) and the Pagoda Forest were unchanged, but Jueyuan, Guo Xiang and the rest had long passed away.
The two of them reached a pavilion and looked at Shaolin Temple. They saw two young monks talking and laughing while walking towards them. Zhang Sanfeng stopped them and asked: “Please report that Zhang Sanfeng of Wudang Mountain humbly requests a meeting with the Abbot.”
The two monks were shocked when they heard Zhang Sanfeng’s name. They looked at him to size him up. What they saw was a very tall man with a silver beard, a shinny red face, a kindly smile and wearing a filthy green Taoist robe. Zhang Sanfeng was carefree and never paid attention to his appearance. When he was a young man, some people in the Jianghu called him the “Scruffy Priest” behind his back. Others called him “Scruffy Zhang”. Then later on, when Wudang’s martial arts were great and its name famous, no one dared to call him such.
The two monks thought: “Zhang Sanfeng is the founding master of Wudang School. Wudang is on par with our Shaolin School. Could it be that he has come to make trouble and to fight?” They saw that he was accompanied with a skinny, green-faced boy of around eleven to twelve years old. Neither of them looked special and the monks could not see any power or prestige. One of the monks asked: “Are you really Wudang’s Ven… Venerable (Zhang Zhen Ren - respectful form of address to a Taoist priest)?” Zhang Sanfeng laughed: “Yes I am, I wouldn’t dare be an impersonator.” Listening to him, the other monk felt that he did not have the bearing of the founding master of a school and disbelieved him even more. The monk asked: “You are really not joking?” Zhang Sanfeng laughed: “What is so special about Zhang Sanfeng? What is the use in impersonating him?” Half believing and half not believing him, the two monks quickly returned to the temple to report.
After quite a long time, the temple door opened and Abbot Kong Weng, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing came out. The three men were followed by about ten old monks in yellow robes. Zhang Sanfeng knew that these were the Damo Hall Elders, who may even be from a more senior generation than the Abbot. They stayed in the temple and studied martial arts, with not a care of the outside world. It was likely that they only accompanied the Abbot out when they heard that the Head of Wudang Sect, who was no ordinary person, had arrived.
Zhang Sanfeng left the pavilion, bowed and said: “How could I trouble the Abbot and all the Reverends to come out and welcome us?” Kong Wen and the others put their hands together and bowed Buddhist-style. Kong Wen said: “Venerable Zhang has come from a far, it is really beyond my expectations. What instructions do you have for me?” Zhang Sanfeng replied: “I have a request to make.” Kong Wen said: “Please sit, please sit.”
Zhang Sanfeng sat down in the pavilion and some monks served tea. Zhang Sanfeng could not help thinking with annoyance: “Regardless of anything, I am still the founding master of a Sect and your senior. Why am I not invited into the temple, but merely made to sit here halfway up the mountain? Let’s not talk about me, it would not even be appropriate for them to treat any other guest in this manner.” But he had an open-minded personality, so he did not take it to heart.
Kong Wen said: “Venerable Zhang, you have humbled yourself by coming to our mountain. By right we should invite you into the temple. But you left Shaolin Temple as a young man. You would know that our rules dictate that all disciples who forsake our Sect or are expelled are not permitted to enter the temple again. If they do, they will be subject to punishment.” Zhang Sanfeng laughed and said: “So that’s the reason. When I was young, all I did was attend to Reverend Jueyuan performing tasks like sweeping floors and making tea. Since I never shaved my head or entered into any master’s tutelage, I could not be considered a Shaolin disciple. Kong Zhi replied coldly: “But you nevertheless secretly learnt Shaolin martial arts.”
Anger surged through Zhang Sanfeng, but he thought: “Wudang’s martial arts are the product of my diligent work and study. But if Reverend Jueyuan had not taught me the ‘9 Yang Manual’ and Heroine Guo had not given me the Shaolin Iron Lohans (Arhats), the martial arts that came later would not have come into being. So it is not wrong to say that my martial arts originate from Shaolin.” So he calmed down and said: “It is regarding this matter that I came here today.”
Kong Wen and Kong Zhi glanced at each other, thinking: “Why did he come here? He can’t have good intentions. It is more likely than not that he is here over Zhang Cuishan’s death.” Kong Wen said: “Please elaborate.” Zhang Sanfeng replied: “Reverend Kong Zhi said that my martial arts originated from Shaolin. What he said is not wrong. At that time, I was Reverend Jueyuan’s attendant and learnt the 9 Yang Manual. But the Manual was too profound. As I was very young then, I was unable to learn it completely. This is one of my deepest regrets. When Reverend Jueyuan recited the Manual on that remote mountain, there were three fortunate people who heard him. One of E-Mei School’s founder Heroine Guo, one was your honourable school’s Reverend Wuse, and the last person was me. I was the youngest and had the least ability. I also had no martial arts foundation. So among the three sects, I probably absorbed the least.” Kong Zhi said coldly: “That may not necessarily be the case. Venerable Zhang attended to Jueyuan when you were young. How could it be that he did not secretly pass on the skills to you? Wudang’s fame of today is all down to Jueyuan’s efforts.” Jueyuan was three generations more senior than Kong Zhi. By right, Kong Zhi should have called him “Martial great- granduncle”. But after Jueyuan escaped from Shaolin, he was considered an expelled disciple of Shaolin and his name had been removed from the list of disciples. So in his anger, Kongzhi simply dispensed with manners. Zhang Sanfeng stood up and respectfully said: “I have never forgotten my late master’s debt of kindness to me.”
Among the Four Great Monks of Shaolin, Kong Jian was the most merciful, but unfortunately he passed away the earliest. Kong Wen was a person of deep thoughts, who did not openly display his emotions. Kong Xing was simple-minded and naïve, he did not pay attention to the affairs of the world. Kong Zhi was temperamental and narrow-minded. He had always felt that Zhang Sanfeng had stolen Shaolin’s martial arts. He could not help feeling angry that Wudang’s name was renown through the world. Furthermore, before Yin Susu died, she pretended to tell the whereabouts of Xie Sun to Kong Wen. This ‘Moving Disaster to Jiangdong’ scheme was very devious. During the last two years, Wulin fighters had incessantly come to Shaolin every two or three days to find out about Xie Xun’s location. Some of them came openly, others furtively and some pleaded, while others demanded. Kong Wen swore and insisted that he did not know where Xie Xun was. But that day in Wudang’s Zi Xiao Palace/Hall, hundreds of people from many sects had seen Yin Susu whisper in Kong Wen’s ear. No matter how Kong Wen tried to explain, nobody believed him. Because of this, battles were fought a few times each month, causing many injuries and deaths on both sides. When all things were considered, how could Shaolin lay the blame on anyone but Wudang? The monks had been suppressing their anger for the last two years. Beyond their expectations, Zhang Sanfeng turned up on their doorstep so they vented their anger and insulted him. Kong Zhi said: “Zhang Sanfeng has admitted stealing martial arts from Shaolin Temple, it is a pity that there are no witnesses to hear it. Otherwise this would be spread through the wulin for everyone to know.” Zhang Sanfeng said: “All the martial arts under heaven are from the same family. For hundreds and thousands of years, the strengths of some have been incorporated to offset the weakness of others (“take from the long to patch up the short”). We can no longer differentiate the true origins of each martial art. But Shaolin School has been recognized as the leader of the wulin for the last few hundred years. I came here today because I admire your noble school’s martial arts. Knowing I have not reached that level, I came to learn a few things from you, the various reverends.”
When Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and the others heard Zhang Sanfeng say “I can to learn a few things from you”, their expressions changed as they thought he was trying to challenge them to a fight. They thought this old priest had cultivated his skills for a hundred years, so his martial arts must be without measure. There was no one who was his match in the whole wide world, and he feared no one. Who knew what sort of peerless martial arts he had been practicing during the last two years? The three monks were momentarily silent.
Finally Kong Xing said: “Good Old Priest, so you want to test our abilities. I, Kong Xing, am not afraid of you. Shaolin has hundreds and thousands of monks. You may not necessarily be able to defeat us all.” Though he said he was “not afraid”, in his heart he was truly afraid. So he came up with this idea of attacking Zhang Sanfeng with hundreds and thousands of monks.
Zhang Sanfeng hastily clarified: “Please don’t misunderstand me. When I said learn a few things, I really meant that I came to ask for some pointers. I have been practicing the ‘9 Yang Manual’ that my late master passed on to me, but there are few things that I don’t understand so I have not mastered it all. Shaolin has many monks who have reached a profound level of cultivation. If Shaolin is willing to teach me, you will have Zhang Sanfeng’s eternal gratitude.” As he said this, he stood up and made a deep bow.”
These words of Zhang Sanfeng were far outside the expectations of the Shaolin monks. His martial arts were without equal, he was the founder of a school and had practiced and cultivated for ninety years. Among the denizens of the wulin in this era, there was no grander name. His status was so high that no one was his equal. The monks could never have imagined that Zhang Sanfeng would now come to Shaolin to beg for instruction. Kong Wen hurriedly bowed and said: “Venerable Zhang, you must be joking. We, your juniors, have shallow knowledge. We cannot measure up to the saying ‘the stone of the mountain studies the jade’ (this is a proverb that basically means "to remedy one’s defects by learing from other’s strenghts”; ie their level of learning is so low/inferior that they cannot measure up to that). How can we give you any pointers?”
Zhang Sanfeng knew that the whole matter appeared very strange. It would be difficult for the monks to understand and trust him, so he told them the whole story right from the beginning – how Wuji was injured by the Xuan Ming Divine Palms and how they had failed to purge the cold Yin poison from his body despite trying everything. He also spoke of how Wuji was Zhang Cuishan only beloved son, and that no matter what, he had to save Wuji’s life. He said that the current situation was that apart from learning the complete ‘9 Yang Manual’, there was no other way. He offered to relate the part of the 9 Yang Manual that he had learnt in exchange for Shaolin’s part, in order to form a more complete whole.
After Kong Wen heard this, he pondered about it for a while. Then he replied: “Shaolin has 72 martial art skills, but in all our history, not a single Shaolin disciple has been able to master more than twelve. Though Venerable Zhang’s knowledge is incomparable, there are far too many martial arts that have been passed on to us by our humble school’s ancestors. It would be extremely difficult to even learn ten percent of it all. Venerable Zhang’s suggestion of exchanging the 9 Yang Manual with us is very generous, but another skill is really surplus to our requirements.” After a while, he added: “Wudang School’s martial arts originate from Shaolin. If we exchange our skills today, in the future the ignorant denizens of the Jianghu will say that Shaolin has benefited from Venerable Zhang. As the head of Shaolin, I cannot allow that to happen.”
Zhang Sanfeng’s heart sank, thinking: “You are the head of the Wulin’s number one school and the first of the Four Divine Monks. Yet, you are narrow-minded and only have the interests of your school at heart.” But as someone who had come seeking a favour, he could not speak his mind. So he said: “You three are the divine monks of this era and merciful. This child is dying. I hope that you’ll have the saving heart of Buddha and fulfill our request. I will be much obliged.” But no matter how he tried to persuade them, the three monks politely declined.
Finally, Kong Wen said: “I can only act according to our rules, please do not take offense.” He turned around and instructed a monk: “Tell the kitchen to prepare a vegetarian banquet. We will entertain Venerable Zhang here.” The monk acquiesced and left. Zhang Sanfeng’s face darkened. He raised his hand and said: “In that case, I have come here in vain. I do not dare partake in the feast. My apologies for bothering you, please do not take offence.” He bowed, took Wuji’s hand and departed.
End of Chapter 10.