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Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre - Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Among the Misfortune and Disorder, the Characters Showed the Way

Filled with pain and frustration, with nowhere to vent, Zhang CuiShan tossed and turned on the bed for over two hours. He then quietly got up, and decided to beat up Du DaJin to vent his frustration. Afraid that his big brother and fourth brother may stop him, Zhang CuiShan stayed extra quiet as he walked through the hallway. As he entered the main hall, he saw a man with both hands behind his back, pacing back and forth continuously.

In the darkness, his eyes gazed upon a tall shadow figure, making heavy footsteps, and realized that it is the master. He stopped immediately, knowing his master would detect any further movement. Should the master then ask him why he is up, Zhang CuiShan would have to tell the truth.

Only to see Zhang SanFeng pace back and forth for a while, inspecting his surroundings, when suddenly he raised his right hand, and began to write characters in the air. Zhang SanFeng is as much a scholar as he is a martial arts master, and his students often sees him reciting poems and writing characters. So it’s not unusual for him to do such a thing. Zhang CuiShan looked at the strokes he made in the air, realized the characters were ‘Grief Disorder’. After repeatedly writing those two characters a few times, he followed up with the characters ‘Tea Poison’. Then it suddenly dawned up on him, “Master’s writing out the characters in the ‘Grief-Disorder Writing Style’.” Zhang CuiShan’s received the nickname of ‘Silver Hook and Iron Brush’, because he used a silver Tiger Hook with his left hand, and a Judge’s Iron Brush with his right. After getting this nickname, he realized that scholars might snicker at him being fake scholar, so he began to study literature just as hard as his kung fu. Zhang SanFeng was indeed writing in ‘Grief-Disorder Writing Style’ created by Wang XiZhi*. By now his master’s finger-brush did not lower back down or retract, did not return nor repeat, following exactly the intentions of the ‘Grief-Disorder Notice’. *Wang XiZhi is perhaps the most famous calligrapher in Chinese history. He’s most famous for his cursive style of writing.

Zhang CuiShan had seen this style of writing two years ago. He remembered that its usage of the brush emphasized easy top-to-bottom strokes, words clear and strong but hard to pull up. Zhang CuiShan always preferred ‘Orchid Pavilion Poem Sequential Writing Style’, ‘Seventeen Writing Style’ and others that are more majestic and solemn in nature. At this moment, as he saw his master’s finger writes in the midair, “Tired of obeisance: Incredible grief and disorder, the ancestor’s graves one again tormented, difficult to bring back.” Each stroke filled with an air of gloom and grief. He saw just how Wang XiZhi must’ve felt when he created this ‘Grief-Disorder Writing Style’.

Wang XiZhi lived in the Eastern Jin* period. He was born to a prosperous family, but was not of Han origin. His family went southward to escape the chaos. During this chaotic time, his ancestor’s graves were robbed, which really saddened his heart, and quite evident in his ‘Misfortune-Disorder Writing Style’. Being a carefree youngster, how could Zhang CuiShan possibly understand the nature of this writing style? But his martial brother’s terrible injury finally allowed him to comprehend the depth of ‘Misfortune- Disorder Writing Style’.

*Eastern Jin is one of the countries that existed between the Three- Kingdoms era and China’s reunification under the Sui Dynasty.

Zhang SanFeng repeated those words several times, sighed deeply, walked to the center of the room, paused for a moment, and then started to write again. This time, his strokes again looked different. Zhang CuiShan followed Zhang SanFeng’s fingers, saw that the first character written was ‘Martial’, the second one ‘World’. In succession, Zhang SanFeng wrote out twenty- four characters total, exactly the phrase they discussed earlier, ‘Martial world’s most venerable, Prized saber dragon slaying, Controlling all under Heaven, None dares to not follow. Power of heaven not appear, who can possibly compete?’ Zhang CuiShan thought his master wrote them to better comprehend the meanings behind these words, and deduce the cause of Yu DaiYan’s injury. But how did this event have to do with the Dragon Saber and Heaven Sword, the two supreme mythical weapons?

Only to see him write those words over and over, in many different ways, his strokes became longer and longer, his arm movement slower and slower, until they began to move with great ease, as if he were practicing martial arts. Zhang CuiShan, fixated on his master’s movements, was amazed and joyous. His master had combined the twenty-four characters into a single, powerful martial arts style. Each character contained multiple moves, with even more variations. The characters ‘Dragon’ and ‘Compete’ contained numerous strokes, while the words ‘Saber’ and ‘Under’ have only a few, but the longer characters were not written in a hurry, nor the shorter characters crudely, the contracted strokes were just as striking, like a cankerworm unyielding, the vertical strokes were just as dangerous, like a cunning rabbit escaping, the dots were written with ease, yet powerful and sturdy, the long slants seemed like the blowing wind, the dancing snow, the thick and heavy parts seem like a tiger’s squat, an elephants footsteps*, only to see some strokes floating in midair, like the dancing of the snow, while others heavy as tiger’s roar, moving as an elephant. Zhang CuiShan’s eyes followed the movements thoroughly, and instinctively began to memorize them. These twenty-four characters contain two ‘Not’ and two ‘Heaven’. Yet each one is written in a unique manner.

*Note: These are descriptions of various basic strokes that typically make up Chinese characters. If you have some understanding of them, you might be able to picture what Jin Yong wanted the readers to see.

In the recent years, Zhang SanFeng rarely taught kung fu anymore. Song YuanQiao and Yu LianZhou taught his final two disciples, Muo ShengGu and Yin LiTing. So despite being the fifth disciple, Zhang CuiShan really is the last person Zhang SanFeng had ever taught kung fu firsthand. Before, Zhang CuiShan’s knowledge was limited, and rarely grasped the deep concepts behind much of the martial arts skills Zhang SanFeng demonstrated. But he had since come a long way with the experience of recent years, plus the fact that they shared the same feelings tonight, two hearts as one, meeting misfortune and felt anguish, encountering torment and whisked it away. Under these extraordinary circumstances, Zhang SanFeng changed these twenty-four characters into a type of martial arts. He obviously did not plan on it, just as it was pure coincidence that Zhang CuiShan would see him as this moment. The two of them, one watched while one practiced, immersed themselves into these words, forgetting the outside world.

Zhang SanFeng repeatedly wrote those words for over four hours, until the moon had risen to the top of the sky. Swoosh, the right palm came straight down, just like the sparkle of a star or a sword, thus completing the final stroke of the last character ‘compete’.

Zhang SanFeng then looked up into the sky, and said, “CuiShan, what do you think of my writing skills?”

Zhang CuiShan gasped in shock, as he did not expect his master to notice him without ever turning around. He promptly walked out of his hiding place, and said, “For your disciple to personally see master put on such an amazing display, words cannot even begin to describe my feelings. I’ll go get the others so they can also learn it.”

Zhang SanFeng shook his head, said, “I got caught up in the moment, which is why it looked so good. If you want me to repeat it again, I doubt I can write nearly as well. Besides, the other students don’t know much about calligraphy. Even if they do see it, they would have a hard time comprehending.” As he spoke, he walked out of the main hall.

Zhang CuiShan did not dare sleep, for fear of forgetting these intricate techniques, and immediately sat down in a meditating position. Each stroke each drag, each move each variation, silently recorded into his memory. Sometimes, he’d write out a few characters from the excitement. Even Zhang CuiShan himself could not remember how long it took him, but he finally recorded those twenty-four characters, and two-hundred-fifteen variations-there are 215 strokes within those 24 characters- into his memory. He stood up, practiced once, and felt his body light and calm as the cloud, incredibly refreshed. When finished, he looked up, blinked a bit, only to see the sun high up in the western sky. Zhang CuiShan gathered himself, not believing that it’s past noon already, but finally realized that he had been practicing for more than half a day.

Zhang CuiShan wiped off the sweat on his face, and walked over to Yu DaiYan’s room, only to see Zhang SanFeng healing Yu DaiYan with his inner power. Upon asking, Zhang CuiShan found out that Song YuanQiao, Zhang SongXi, and Yin LiTing had left in the morning. None of them said goodbye, as they didn’t want to interfere with his meditation. The Dragon Gate Escort Agency’s people also left. Although Zhang CuiShan’s clothes were now soaked in sweat, Zhang CuiShan was in too much of a hurry to change them. He quickly grabbed his weapons and his normal change of clothing, took out some travel money, and returned to Yu DaiYan’s room, said, “Master. Your disciple will be leaving.” Zhang SanFeng nodded, smiled slightly.

Zhang CuiShan walked to the bedside, only to see Yu DaiYan’s face gray- black, his whole body almost like a dead person. With pain in Zhang CuiShan’s heart, he said, “Third brother, even if it cost me my life, I shall give you your revenge.” He then kowtowed to his master three times, and left.

He rode his long-legged spotted horse down the Wu Dang Mountain. By the time he left Wu Dang, it was already pretty late in the afternoon. Night came after riding south for only about twenty miles. Just as he entered the roadside inn, dark clouds gathered in the sky, followed by pouring rain. This rain lasted throughout the evening. The next morning, he woke up to an extremely muggy room, with loud sounds of rain hitting the rooftop outside. Zhang CuiShan bought a hat from the innkeeper, and continued to ride despite the weather. Fortunately, his horse is a prized stallion, which kept its footing despite galloping on the incredibly slippery mud.

Upon reaching the edge of the Yellow River, he saw thick yellow river waves rolling heavily in the river, the current almost impossible for anyone to cross. He found out from the local residents that the water downstream had flood the riverbanks, and devastated the people there. As Zhang CuiShan entered the nearby town, only to see the flood victims seeking refuge in the town, everyone soaked in water.

As he traveled across town, Zhang CuiShan saw a row of riders in front, who just happened to be the people of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency. He hurried up, went past them, and blocked their way.

Distressed upon seeing Zhang CuiShan, Du DaJin stuttered, “W… What do you need, Fifth Hero Zhang?” Zhang CuiShan said, “Have you seen the homeless people from the flooding?” Du DaJin didn’t expect this question, paused, and then responded, “Why do you ask?” Zhang CuiShan smirked, said, “It’s always right to do good deeds. How about donating some gold to the needy?” Du DaJin’s face turned white, said, “People like us put our lives on the line when we work. How would we find the money to save the homeless?” Zhang CuiShan lowered his voice, said, “Why don’t you take out the two thousand taels of gold, and donate them?” Du DaJin reached for his saber, asked, “Are you purposely looking for trouble today?” Zhang CuiShan said, “Yes. I’m going to get the money either way today.”

Sub-leaders Zhu and Shi took out their weapons, and moved up next to Du DaJin. Meanwhile, Zhang CuiShan remained empty-handed, smirked, and then said, “Leader Du, you took your customer’s money, but did you accomplish the task asked? Do you really have the nerve to keep the gold?”

Du DaJin said with a purple face, “But Hero Yu was sent to the Wu Dang Mountain alive, right? He was already injured when we took him in, and he’s still not dead even now.” Zhang CuiShan said angrily, “Do you really think you can weasel your way out of this? Were my third brother’s joints broken before you escorted him?”

Before Du DaJin could respond, sub-leader Shi cut in, “Just say what you want us to do.” Zhang CuiShan said, “I’m going to break every single bone in your arms and legs!” As he said this, he immediately flew forward. Sub- leader Shi quickly raised his staff to attack, while Zhang CuiShan’s left hand swooshed down and across to the left, writing out his newly learnt kung fu’s long-slant in the character ‘Heaven’. Sub-leader Shi’s staff fell out of his hand, and fell off the horse. Sub-leader Zhu wanted to retreat, but how could he be quick enough? Zhang CuiShan very naturally finished the character “Heaven” with the short-slant right, finger swept across sub-leader Zhu’s waist, grabbed it, and threw him and his saddle a few meters away, in one smooth motion. For Sub-leader Zhu’s foot were stuck so firmly into the stirrup, plus Zhang CuiShan’s move was simply too powerful, that the saddle actually broke off the horse. With his feet firmly stuck in the stirrup, Sub- leader Zhu couldn’t get up.

Shocked upon seeing such quick and smooth attacks, Du DaJin quickly got his horse to move forward. Zhang CuiShan turned around swiftly, gathered his energy, and shot out his left fist. This attack is the vertical stroke in the character ‘Under’, which hit Du DaJin flatly on the chest. Du DaJin’s kung fu is much better than Zhu and Shi, and did not fall off the horse. With extreme anger, he reined in his horse, tried to get off his horse to fight, when suddenly he felt a surge of pain from his throat, and coughed up a gulp of blood. He staggered, took a deep breath, only to feel yet another cluster of hot blood, surging within. Although he tried to act tough, his body could not hold up, both knees weakened, and fell down to the ground.

Three young sub-leaders and all the rest of the people could only watch in alarm, who dared step forward to help?

Zhang CuiShan originally planned to break their arms and legs, to help vent his frustration, but upon seeing the three agency leaders injured so deeply, especially Du DaJin, he now felt a little guilty. He never realized just how powerful this new ‘Heaven and Dragon Kung Fu’ really is. Zhang CuiShan said, “Listen up. Today I’ll stop here. But you must promise to give all your money to the homeless, so they can rebuild their homes. Don’t try to cheat. If I find out that you’ve kept any money for yourselves, I’ll tear down your Dragon Gate Escort Agency, and kill every living, breathing person in it.” That last sentence came from Du DaJin’s story of what that customer Yin had said, so he conveniently used it. Du DaJin tried to get up, only to feel his back in extreme pain, and began to cough up blood again. Sub-leaders Zhu and Shi only had some scratches, but neither dared fight Zhang CuiShan again. Sub-leader Shi said, “Fifth Hero Zhang, since we could not accomplish our task, we should return the money to our customer. Besides, the money is back at the agency. How can we use it to help these homeless?”

Zhang CuiShan said with a cold smile, “Do you think I’m a child? All your kung fu experts came on this delivery. There are only family members back at the agency. Would you really keep so much money with them?” He scanned around, and walked over to one of the carts. Zhang CuiShan raised his palm to hit the case, ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’, the case on the cart fell apart, as gold nuggets fell out.

The leaders’ faces turned pale, as they wondered, “How did he knew it was on that cart?” They didn’t realize that although Zhang CuiShan is young, he’s smart and experienced. He saw that this cart made the heaviest prints. And the three people guarding it did not try move at all when their leaders were attacked. Therefore, this case must contain some valuable items. After a cold laugh, Zhang CuiShan got up on his horse, and galloped away.

He felt very delighted, knowing the due to Du DaJin’s fear for his relatives’ safety, he would certainly give the money to the needy. As he continued riding, Zhang CuiShan repeated the variations of those twenty-four characters in his head. That night when he first saw this kung fu, he simply felt that it was mysterious and strange. Only when used in combat, did Zhang CuiShan realize its power. To him, learning a new, powerful kung fu felt ten times better than obtaining some priceless treasure. Finally, when he remembered Yu DaiYan’s condition, Zhang CuiShan could not help but sigh in sadness.

He traveled for several days in the heavy rain. Even with his spotted horse’s endurance, fatigue set in after a while. By the time he arrived in the Shan Xi province, his horse became a bit sick. Caring about the health of his horse, Zhang CuiShan traveled very slowly for quite some time. So it was already the thirtieth day of the fourth month when he arrived at the city of Lin An. o0o

He booked a room at the local inn, and wondered, “I’ve traveled way too slowly. I wonder if Du DaJin and his people had returned to the agency. Where could my second and seventh brother be? Also, considering my altercation with Du DaJin and the others, I don’t think I can go to their agency openly. I should instead go in secret tonight.”

After dinner, upon asking an inn worker, he found out that the location of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency lies by the bank of the West Lake. At the marketplace, he bought a new robe and the incredibly renowned fan of Hang Zhou. Afterwards he took a bath, brushed his hair, and changed his clothing, Zhang CuiShan looked into the mirror, only to see himself looking nothing like a kung fu expert, but rather a scholar. Zhang CuiShan held up a brush, thought he should write a poem on it, and spontaneously wrote out the Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber poem, each stroke naturally and elegantly. Looking at the fan again, he thought, “Wow! Even my writing skills have improved from learning this new kung fu. These words look excellent.” He folded the fan, walked outside, towards the West Lake.

Even before the end of the Southern Sung Dynasty, Lin An had fell under the control of the Mongolians. Due to its location as the capital of the Southern Sung Dynasty, the Mongolians were especially weary of its citizens, afraid that they may be too deeply in love with the old regime. Therefore, they established harsh, strict policies unto the citizens. That’s why most people have moved to other places. A hundred years ago, Lin An had been an incredibly prosperous place, but that was the old days.

As Zhang CuiShan walked down the road, he only saw broken-down houses, dusts in his eyes, as the former famous city of the Lower-Yangtze River region had turned into a almost a ghost town. Even though the sun had not yet set, all the residents had already closed their doors and windows, only to see Mongolian patrol soldiers marching on the street. Zhang CuiShan didn’t want unnecessary trouble, so he immediately hid in the alley upon hearing the sounds of the troops. In the past, lanterns would light up the river at night, but now, only darkness covered the city, with no pedestrians in sight. Zhang CuiShan followed the inn worker’s directions to the Dragon Gate Escort Agency.

The agency’s is made up of five buildings, one linked behind another, it’s gate facing the West Lake, with a pair of stone lions decorating the entrance. Zhang CuiShan saw the large houses from afar, walked toward it slowly, only to see a boat docked at the lake outside. Two lanterns lit up the front of the boat, with a single person tasting wine under the candlelight. Zhang CuiShan thought, “This is person is in an artistic mood.” Only to see the lanterns outside the agency unlit, the large front doors shut tightly, probably meant that everyone inside is already asleep.

Zhang CuiShan walked to the main gate and thought, “Du DaJin said that someone carried third brother here a month ago. I wonder who was that?” While pondering, he suddenly heard deep sigh from behind him.

This sigh sounded like a ghost in the dark, silent night. Zhang CuiShan quickly turned, scanned the area, but other than the single person on the boat, there is no one else around. Zhang CuiShan felt uneasy, examined the person on the boat, only to see him wearing a green robe, scholarly dressed, just like himself. With the dim lighting, Zhang CuiShan could not see his face clearly, but his cheeks looked very pale white, as the lanterns shined on it, looked like the green waves on the lake itself. Lone boat in the freezing water, cold and dark, seemingly out of this world. That person sat quietly on the boat, and for a long, long time, other than the sleeves flying with the wind, there was no movement.

Zhang CuiShan originally wanted to sneak into the building, but changed his mind upon seeing the man on the boat, thinking that it’s really not the righteous thing to do. So he went up to the door and knocked three times. In the silence of the night, the sound from these three knocks could be heard from far away. Yet for a long time, no one came to the door. Zhang CuiShan knocked on the door three more times, a bit louder this time, almost hurting his ears. Again he could hear no movement from inside. Not sure what’s going on, he reach out with his hand and pushed the door, only to see it open without a sound, for it was not locked. Zhang CuiShan entered the courtyard and yelled, “Is your Escort Leader Du here?” As he spoke, he walked into the main hall.

The main hall is completely dark, without any candlelight. Suddenly, the main gate closed quickly behind him.

Zhang CuiShan hesitated a moment, turned around towards the gate, only to see it shut tightly, the lock now in place, meaning there’s someone here with him. Zhang CuiShan smiled coldly, thought, “What’s this all about?” Given the circumstances, he might as well enter the main hall.

So he stepped into the room, only to hear sounds of wind coming from all directions, as four people surrounded him. Zhang Cuishan jumped out of the harm’s way. In the darkness, white light glittered, only to see weapons in each person’s hand. He quickly moved to the left, towards the west side, as his right fist swept across, hitting the Sun Point of one of the attackers, stunning him instantly, followed by his left hand sweeping from top-right down to bottom-left, hitting another person’s waist. These are the first two strokes of ‘no’. Zhang CuiShan’s left hand then swooshed down, as his right fist shot out and wrote the ‘point’, completing the whole ‘no’ character through these four strokes, knocking down all four attackers.

He doesn’t exactly know who his attackers are, so Zhang CuiShan did not use much power, only about thirty percent or so. When the fourth person fell down, breaking a chair along the way, he yelled, “I can’t believe you’re so venomous. If you’re a true man, then you should leave your name.” Zhang CuiShan said with a smile, “If I’m truly venomous, do you think you’d be alive right now? My name is Zhang CuiShan.” That person gasped, as if quite surprised. He said, “You really are Wu Dang’s Fifth Hero… ‘Silver Hook Iron Brush’ Zhang CuiShan? You’re not just pretending?”

Zhang CuiShan smiled, reached into his robe and took out his weapons. His left hand held the Silver Tiger Hook, and his right hand held the Judge’s Iron Brush, as the two weapons scratched across one another, a few sparks appeared.

During this brief moment of light, Zhang CuiShan saw the four people wearing yellow monk robes lying in front of him, for these are monks. Of course, those monks also saw his appearance at this time. Two of the monks stared intently at him, their eyes filled with hatred. Bewildered, Zhang CuiShan asked, “May I have your names?”

Only to hear a monk yell, “Looks like we can’t get our revenge today. Let’s go!” As he spoke, the four monks got up, about to leave. But one of them suddenly fell down after walking a few steps, probably because Zhang CuiShan hurt him too deeply. Two monks returned to carry him.

Zhang CuiShan yelled out, “Could you wait up a moment? Revenge for what…” Before he could finish, the monks had jumped over the wall.

Zhang CuiShan felt that something’s not right, but could not pinpoint the exact reason. Why would there be four monks hiding in the Dragon Gate Escort Agency? Why did they ambush him? And what’s with this whole ‘revenge’ deal? He thought, “Surely the residents here would know.” He raised his voice and asked, “Is Escort Leader Du at home? Is Escort Leader Du at home?” In the empty hall, echoes reverberated from the walls, yet there is no response.

Zhang CuiShan thought, “Surely not all of them slept so soundly, that no one heard me. Are they afraid of me, and simply hiding? Or perhaps they all left?” He lit up a match, only to see several candles on a nearby table. He then lit up a candle and walked into the rooms in the back. After only a few steps, Zhang CuiShan saw a woman lying on the floor motionless. He yelled out, “Big sister, what’s going on?” That woman remained still. Zhang CuiShan put a hand under her shoulders and pulled her up, then moved the candle over her face, and gasped out loud.

Only to see this woman smiling, but her muscles tense, and had been dead for several hours. Zhang CuiShan thought she was dead when he touched her, but still felt odd that she’d die with a smile on her face. He stood up, only to see someone behind the left pillar. Walking over, he saw an old man dressed in servant clothing, also dead with a smile on his face.

Bewildered, Zhang CuiShan pulled out his silver hook and scanned the room with the candle. He found several tens of people dead both inside and outside all the houses, indeed the place is filled with corpses, with absolutely no one left alive. After traveling around the world for many years, Zhang CuiShan had already seen many tragedies, but never a massacre such as this one. His heart fluttered, only to see his own shadow shook on the wall. For his hands were wavering, shaking the candle with it, and naturally the shadow too.

Suddenly, he remembered something, “If you fail to make this delivery, I’ll kill everyone in the Dragon Gate Escort Agency.” Obviously, these people died because of Du DaJin’s mistake, not able to adequately protect Yu DaiYan on the way to Wu Dang. He then thought, “That person obviously killed these people because of third brother. Which means he should be third brother’s friend. But why would the third brother befriend such a vicious person? Besides, he’s obviously much better than Du DaJin in terms of kung fu, so why didn’t he escort third brother himself?” The more Zhang CuiShan thought, the more mysterious this whole deal became. He walked out the door to the west. With the candlelight, he saw two yellow-robed monks, backs against the wall, examining him.

Zhang CuiShan backed off a couple of steps, tightened the grip on his hook, and asked, “What do you want?” Only to see the two monks motionless, when suddenly, he realized that they’re also dead. Zhang CuiShan gasped, yelled out loud. “Oh no. Revenge, revenge…” Didn’t those monks say something like, “I can’t believe you’re so venomous. If you’re a true man, give me your name.” And also, “Looks like we can’t get our revenge today.” It appeared that he would be blamed for the deaths of these people. At that time when he’s still in the dark about everything, Zhang CuiShan not only gave his name, but also showed his renowned silver hook and iron brush. But who exactly are those yellow-robed monks?

Zhang CuiShan suddenly realized that he finished off those four monks too quickly, and couldn’t therefore figure out their kung fu. But from the exchange, he could feel those monks use a power-oriented, hard kung fu style. Du DaJin is a disciple of Shaolin, so these people are most likely Shaolin monks. But where are second and seventh brother? The master asked them to protect the people of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency. Could the killer be so powerful that not even my second brother could handle him?

Zhang CuiShan realized that the escaped monks would say that he’s the killer, and that Shaolin would eventually look for him. But Zhang CuiShan thought, “I can explain everything later, and the truth will come out one of these days. At that time, surely no killer could escape the search of both Wu Dang and Shaolin. It’s more important for me to find second and seventh brother right now.” He blew out the candle, walked to the side of the wall, and jumped out.

Before he landed, a sudden, loud, swoosh sound came, as a heavy weapon swept across at him, followed by a yell, “Lie down, Zhang CuiShan.” While in midair, Zhang CuiShan could not adjust to evade the weapon, which came with great power. In this critical moment, he quickly tipped the weapon with his left hand, borrowed its force, and lifted himself back up on the wall. This move used several strokes of the character ‘Martial’. As the saying goes, “The swallows rise from the water, the geese fly swiftly in the sky, facing danger control yourself, in the middle of danger soar away,” to create a path of escape in the middle of a dangerous situation. In this life and death moment, he suddenly realized that this new kung fu could be hard as stone, yet also soft as feather, easily dissipating the opponent’s powerful attack. His left foot lightly set on the edge of the wall, the Judge’s Iron Brush now in his right hand. From that attack, Zhang CuiShan realized this opponent is very formidable.

The attacker was shocked that Zhang CuiShan could evade his attack so easily, couldn’t help but let out a ‘huh?’ Then he yelled, “Humph, you’re pretty good, kid.”

Zhang CuiShan put his brush and hook in front of his chest, pointed then down in the ‘Willing to Learn’ position. This is Wu Dang’s signature pose as a sign of respect to elder opponents. Had Zhang CuiShan not learnt the new kung fu from his master, that last attack would have at least broken his shoulder. Yet even while incredibly angry, Zhang CuiShan did not forget his master’s teachings, and leave out courtesy in the face of an opponent.

In the darkness he vaguely saw two yellow-robed monks on his left and right, each with a large, thick staff. The one on the left said, “Zhang CuiShan, the Seven Heroes of Wu Dang are fairly renowned in the martial world. Yet how could your ways be so vicious?”

As Zhang CuiShan hear the monk call him by his name, instead of ‘Fifth Hero Zhang’ or ‘Mr. Zhang CuiShan’, he felt a surge of anger, and responded in a cold manner, “You don’t ask for explanation, nor seek the truth. Instead you hide in the darkness and sneak up on me. Is that what a hero is suppose to do? I have heard that Shaolin’s kung fu is unparalleled, but didn’t realize that their ability to sneak up on the enemy is also so amazing.”

That monk let out a loud grunt, jumped up the wall and attacked at the same time with his staff. Even before the monk landed, Zhang CuiShan felt a strong wind coming from the point of the staff towards his chest, and quickly diverted the staff with his hook. The brush shot out, hitting the middle of the staff. That monk suddenly felt a strong shock coming from the staff, which prevented him from gaining balance on the wall, fell off. Zhang CuiShan only felt much numbness in both hands, thought, “This monk’s strength is quite good.” He asked, “May I ask for your name?”

The monk on the right said, “I am Yuan Yin. This is my martial brother Yuan Ye.” Zhang CuiShan said, “Oh, so you are the Yuan generation at Shaolin. May I ask why you’re here?”

Yuan Yin seemed to be gasping for breath when speaking, said, “This is a serious matter between us Wu Dang and Shaolin. Although we are of the younger generation, we still must intervene in this matter. I ask of you. Now that you’ve kill all the people in the Dragon Gate Protection Agency, in addition to two of my martial nephews. I want to ask, how Fifth Hero Zhang intends to solve this dilemma involving so many deaths.” Despite the courteous nature of his tone, his words were very critical.

Zhang CuiShan said coldly, “I’m also trying to find out who killed these people. But since you’re so sure that I did it, I ask you. Did you actually see me murder anyone?” Yuan Yin yelled, “Hui Feng. Why don’t you have a chat with Hero Zhang?”

Four yellow-robed monks appeared from the forest, the same ones Zhang CuiShan knocked down earlier. That monk named Hui Feng steped up and said, “Martial uncle. It’s indeed him. He killed all the people in the agency, plus brothers Hui Tong and Hui Guang.” Yuan Yin said, “You saw it with your own eyes?” Hui Feng said, “Yes. If the four of us hadn’t escaped quickly enough, we would’ve also been dead.” Yuan Yin said, “Monks cannot lie. Plus the reputations of Wu Dang and Shaolin are at stake here. Are you absolutely certain of what you saw?” Hui Feng got on his knees and said, “With the Holy Buddha above listening, every word I now say is the exact truth.” Yuan Yin said, “Good. Now recall the exact events.” When Zhang CuiShan heard this, he quickly jumped down the wall.

Yuan Ye thought that Zhang CuiShan wanted to kill Hui Feng, and quickly attacked him with a sweep of his staff. Zhang CuiShan lowered his head and easily dodged the attack, in a smooth motion, twisted around behind Hui Feng. Yuan Ye originally planned on following up with another attack, but saw that he can no longer hurt Zhang CuiShan without first hurting Hui Feng. Yuan Ye retracted his staff and said, “What do you want?”

Zhang CuiShan said, “I just want to hear a bit more closely, hear exactly just how I killed all those people.”

Seeing Zhang CuiShan behind him, Hui Feng knew that if he made any hasty moves, Zhang CuiShan could immediately kill him. Even his martial uncles won’t be able to help him. But due to his anger towards, Hui Feng did not flinch, yelled, “A few days ago, martial uncle Yuan Xin received a letter from martial brother Du DaJin, north of the Yangtze river. He immediately sent Hui Tong and Hui Guang to help out. Then he sent me a note to also come here, with three fellow martial brothers. Upon entering, Brother Hui Guang said that the enemy might be here tonight, and that the four of us should guard outside. He also told us to not fall for any diversions.” Yuan Yin said, “Then what? Keep going.”

Hui Feng said, “Soon after dark, I heard Hui Tong fighting in the back hall, followed by a loud scream, as if he were gravely injured. By the time I got there, he’s already dead… this bastard Zhang…”

He turned around and pointed his finger at Zhang CuiShan, almost touching his nose, yelling, “I saw you push Brother Hui Guang to the wall with your palm, killing him. I know I’m no match for you, so I simply watched through the window. Then eight people tried to escape, and you followed them outside, killed them all with your hands, not even letting go the old and the young. Afterwards, you left.” Zhang CuiShan did not move at all. Even while Hui Feng’s salive fell on his face, he neither dodged nor retaliated. Afterwards, he said coldly, “Then what?”

Hui Feng continued, “After that, I discussed with my three brothers on what to do next. Everyone thought your kung fu was too powerful for us, so we should stay low for a moment. Who’d have thought that you’d come back again just then. We knew we couldn’t beat you, but at that moment, we didn’t think that that much. I asked for your name, didn’t you say that you are Wu Dang’s Zhang CuiShan? At first I didn’t believe you, thinking that the heroes of Wu Dang would not do such a thing. But when you showed your weapons, I had to believe you.”

Zhang CuiShan said, “I admit that I did indeed give you my name, showed my weapons, and knocked the four of you down. But are absolutely certain that I’m the one who killed everyone in the escort agency?”

At this moment, Yuan Yin flew up, grabbed Hui Feng’s body and pushed him into the distance. He said, “He already told you the whole event. So the renowned Fifth Hero Zhang could not try to hide the truth.” He pushed Hui Feng aside so Zhang CuiShan could not try to kill this witness. Hui Feng said to Zhang CuiShan, “Fine, I’ll say it again. I personally saw you killed Hui Guang and Hui Tong, personally saw you killing the eight people in the escort agency.” Zhang CuiShan said, “Did you see my face clearly? Was I wearing this same outfit?” As he spoke he took out a match, lighting up his face and body. Hui Feng stared at him with great disdain, said, “You were wearing this robe exactly. At that time, you had a fan in your left hand. Now you have it on your waist.”

Zhang CuiShan felt his stomach boiling, not knowing why this monk would purposely say such a lie, walked up and stared into his face, yelled, “If you have the guts, say those words again. Say that it’s me who killed them all, not someone else!”

Hui Feng’s eyes suddenly let out a strange expression. He pointed at Zhang CuiShan and said, “You… you’re… you’re not…” and instantly he fell down onto the ground. Yuan Yin and Yuan Ye quickly went up to look check his condition, only to see an expression of shock on Hui Feng’s face, with no pulse in his body.

Yuan Yin yelled, “You… You killed him?” Zhang CuiShan also did not expect to see this turn of events. He quickly turned around, only to see a shadow running away among the trees. He yelled, “Stop!” and immediately flew toward the shadow. If he couldn’t find the real killer at this moment, he’d be misunderstood as the killer.

Who’d have thought that while in midair, two swooshes of wind would come from behind, as two staffs caught up to him from left and right. At the same time, the two monks yelled, “Don’t think you can get away, murderer!” Zhang CuiShan’s brush and hook both swept down, writing the word ‘Saber’[only two strokes to this character] in a backhanded manner. His hook bent around and trapped Yuan Ye’s staff point, while his brush cast aside Yuan Yin’s staff. Borrowing their power, he quickly flew over them to land on the roof behind them. Zhang CuiShan then tried to scan the area, but saw no person in sight.

Yuan Ye quickly jumped up to the roof for another attack. Zhang CuiShan yelled, “I need to find the killer. Don’t get in my way!” Yuan Yin said in rage, “You… you killed him in front of my face, and yet try to deny it?” Zhang CuiShan flung Yuan Yin’s staff to the side, preventing him from coming up.

Yuan Yin said, “Fifth Hero Zhang. We don’t want to take your life. You simply need to drop your weapons, come with us to the Shaolin, and let the abbot pass judgment on you.” Zhang CuiShan said angrily, “I can’t believe you’re actually ‘Yuan’ generation Shaolin experts. The real killer came and went without you even noticing.” Yuan Yin said, “Look, I can’t personally decide your fate for killing my fellow brothers. So please come with us to Shaolin.” Zhang CuiShan said coldly, “Urgh! I can’t believe the Yuan generation at Shaolin is filled with idiots. You can’t even see who the real killer is?” Yuan Yin said, “I’m sorry. You have too much blood on your hands. We can’t let you escape.”

Upon hearing Yuan Yin so adamantly pointing him as the killer, Zhang CuiShan became angrier and angrier. Not only did he have to argue with Yuan Yin, but he also must fight off Yuan Ye at the same time. In the heat of the battle, Zhang CuiShan said with a smirk, “You think you can actually capture me?”

Only to see Yuan Ye push his staff onto the ground, trying to borrow its force to get him up. Zhang CuiShan jumped at the same time. His lightness kung fu is far superior to Yuan Ye’s, attacked downward as he jumped. Yuan Ye tried to block his attack with the staff, but Zhang CuiShan’s hook suddenly changed directions in midair, followed by a tearing sound, as his hook sliced through Yuan Ye’s shoulder. Yuan let out a scream, fell to the ground. He only lived because Zhang CuiShan showed mercy, and not aim for Yuan Ye’s throat.

Yuan Yin quickly held up his brother and asked, “Are you alright?” Yuan Ye said, “I’m fine! You still talking and not attacking? Stop with the indecisiveness!” Yuan Yin sighed, then raised his staff to attack. Yuan Ye did not bother to wrap up his wound, instead immediately went back to fighting Zhang CuiShan. The dancing staffs carried the wind, both converged to attack as one. Zhang CuiShan knew the wrist power of the two monks, in addition to the heaviness of their weapons. Should they be able to jump onto the wall, he would have great difficulty winning. So Zhang CuiShan played defensive, guarding his higher vantage point. Neither monks could jump up to the wall as a result. The ‘Hui’ generation monks have much lower kung fu, so despite seeing their martial uncles at a disadvantage, they had no way of helping.

Zhang CuiShan thought, “I really must go find the real killer quickly, no reason to get caught up in this misunderstanding.” He retracted his hook and brush into defensive positions, holding off attack. Just as he’s about to spring away, Zhang CuiShan heard a yell from behind, the voice thunderous, followed by a powerful force pushing towards him. Only to see a big-bodied monk jump up unto the roof, both his hands now reaching for Zhang CuiShan’s weapons. Although Zhang CuiShan could not see his face in the darkness, he realized that this monk is using Shaolin’s famous and powerful Tiger Claws. Yuan Ye yelled, “Thank goodness you’re here, brother Yuan Xin. Don’t let this murderer get away.”

Zhang CuiShan had seldom met any formidable enemy in his lifetime, plus his martial arts recently increased a great deal with this new kung fu. When he saw this new monk attacking, he felt a strong hatred, and began to have the urge to duel with them. He put away his hook and brush, yelled, “Humph, do you think the three of you could beat me?” Just as Yuan Xin’s left hand is nearly next to him, Zhang CuiShan retracted his right palm, swooped around and ripped apart a piece of Yuan Xin’s robe. As Yuan Xin’s claws touched his shoulder, Zhang CuiShan’s left foot flew out, hitting Yuan Xin squarely on the kneecap.

Yuan Xin’s knees are unusually sturdy, so he did not fell down even after suffering such an injury. With a loud roar, his right claw came at Zhang CuiShan. At the same time, Yuan Yin and Yuan Ye’s staffs also attacked from behind. Yuan Yin’s voice might be croaked, seemingly ill, but his kung fu is the best of the three. A staff weighing at least thirty to forty pounds seemed light as a sword in his hands, very quick and flexible. After meeting his match for the first time in life, Zhang CuiShan thought, “Wu Dang and Shaolin had been considered the two most powerful sects in the world recently, yet we never really had a chance to compete against each other. Today’s a good opportunity to test against the powerful Shaolin martial arts.” With that thought, he shot out his two palms, freely shifting among the two staffs and a pair of claws, cutting down, capturing, pointing and attacking. Even while fighting one on three, Zhang CuiShan gradually gained the upper hand.

Shaolin and Wu Dang sects both have their strengths and weaknesses. Zhang SanFeng is a seldom-seen genius when it comes to martial arts, but Wu Dang nonetheless lacked the thousands of years of experience Shaolin had. The difference is that, Zhang CuiShan is one of the best Wu Dang fighters, while the three monks are only second tier fighters in Shaolin. So as the fight went on, Zhang CuiShan became more and more energetic, his movements became swifter and faster. Suddenly, his right hand wrote out the long hook in the character ‘Dragon’, grabbing Yuan Ye’s staff, and redirected it unto Yuan Yin’s staff. With a loud collision sound, so loud everyone’s ears vibrated. Both monks had incredible strength. Their strength, adding Zhang CuiShan’s, caused such a powerful collision that blood came out of the two monks’ mouths. As Yuan Xin came over to help, Zhang CuiShan quickly stepped to the side, held out his foot in front of Yuan Xin, and then gave him a shove on the back. With the shove and his own natural forward movement, Yuan Xin immediately tripped to the ground.

Zhang CuiShan said coldly, “Want to take me to Shaolin? You’ll have to practice a few more years first.” Yuan Xin got up and yelled, “Murderer! Don’t try to run away!” And with that the three monks began to come after Zhang CuiShan again. Zhang CuiShan thought, “They really are pesky, but I can’t exactly kill them.” So he took a deep breath and began to use his lightness kung fu to escape.

Yuan Xin and Yuan Ye both tried to chase him, but could not catch up, due to their inferior lightness kung fu. They can only yell, “Capture the murderer! Don’t let him go!” while chasing along the banks. Zhang CuiShan laughed inside, thinking how can you people catch up to me? Suddenly he heard Yuan Xin and Yuan Ye both yell out “Ahhh!” while Yuan Yin let out a light groan, but also seemingly injured.

Zhang CuiShan turned his head around, only to see all three monks with their hands over their right eyes, as if hit by hidden weapons. Then Yuan Yin yelled, “Zhang CuiShan. If you got the guts, come back and blind my left eye too!”

Zhang CuiShan thought, “Were they blinded by someone? Who’s helping me?” He then realized something, yelled, “Seventh brother, seventh brother. Where are you?” Among the seven Wu Dang heroes, Muo ShengGu’s the best at hidden weapons. That’s why Zhang CuiShan figured his seventh brother must be here.

But after several yells, no response came. Zhang CuiShan searched around several trees by the banks, but could not find even half a shadow.

Yuan Ye lost control after getting blinded, and wanted to keep chase Zhang CuiShan. But Yuan Yin stopped him, knowing that doing so would be pointless. He said, “Brother Yuan Ye, we don’t have to be in such a hurry to seek revenge. Even if we give up, do you think our elder reverends would let him go? Let’s go seek the advice of the abbot. He’ll help us.”

o0o

Zhang CuiShan felt a bit more comfortable, after seeing the Shaolin monks leave. But he still wondered, “Just who was the person that helped me?” He didn’t want to stay by the lake much longer, and decided to hurry back to the inn. After quickly running for about thirty meters, he saw a bush rustling by the lake.

Since there’s no wind right now, so someone must be hiding behind it. Zhang CuiShan walked closer, about to ask who’s there, when suddenly a person shot out of the bush, attacked him with a saber, yelling, “Today, either you die or I die!”

Zhang CuiShan kicked his foot out, and quickly knocked the saber out of that person’s hand, into the lake. Looking closely, he saw that this person is yet another monk, except his kung fu is quite mediocre. Zhang CuiShan yelled, “What are you doing here?” While speaking, he saw three other people lying behind the bush. Zhang CuiShan ignored the monk, and went over to examine the three people. He found that these three people are the three leaders of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency, Du, Shi, and Zhu.

Shocked, Zhang CuiShan yelled, “Leader Du, what… what happened…” Before he could finish, Du DaJin sprung up, grabbed Zhang CuiShan’s collar with both hands, gritted his teeth, said, “Murderer. I just left three hundred taels of silver for myself, yet… yet you still won’t let me go?” Zhang CuiShan said, “What are you talking about?” About to brush Du DaJin’s hands away, only to see his lip spewing out blood. Zhang CuiShan asked, “Have you suffered internal injuries?”

Du DaJin yelled to that monk, “Martial brother. Remember. The murderer is Wu Dang’s Zhang CuiShan. Get away before he kills you too!” As he said this, he quickly shot forward, trying to head-butt Zhang CuiShan.

Zhang CuiShan hurriedly twist around, got out of the way by pushing off on Du DaJin’s arm, only to hear a loud thud, as Du DaJin fell onto the ground, ripping off a piece of Zhang CuiShan’s clothing along the way. Despite his courage, Zhang CuiShan nonetheless felt very uneasy about tonight’s events. Only to see Du DaJin’s heartbeat stopped. Obviously, he was already seriously injured, or that push Zhang CuiShan gave could not have killed him.

That monk yelled in shock, “You… you just killed my martial brother…” He quickly turned around, and began to run away as fast as he can.

Zhang CuiShan shook his head, saw that sub-leaders Zhu and Shi’s feet are in the water, already dead for some time. Looking at the three bodies, Zhang CuiShan felt much sadness. Although he hated them for making a grave mistake regarding Yu DaiYan, he hardly wanted to see them dead like this. Suddenly, he thought, “Du DaJin thought that I killed them because he left three hundred taels of gold for himself. I never knew anything about that. Besides, even if I did, I would hardly make a big deal out of it.” He reached into Du DaJin’s sack, and indeed found several gold nuggets. At this moment, Zhang CuiShan felt that life really is fleeting. This escort leader spent his whole life traveling around, living under constant threat of death, just for some gold. Yet now, with gold right by his side, Du DaJin would no longer be able to enjoy them. He then thought about his great triumph over those Shaolin monks, but how long can he enjoy this? After all, a hundred years later, he’d be no different from Du DaJin. Zhang CuiShan then sighed deeply.

Suddenly, the sound of zither came from the lake. Zhang CuiShan looked up, only to see a young scholar on a boat, the same one he saw in front of the escort agency earlier. He looked at the three bodies by his side, and at the boat closing in, thought that should the person see him like this, and alert the soldiers, there would be much unnecessary problems. Just as he’s about to leave, that gentleman suddenly said, “If this friend likes to observe the night scenery of the lake, why not do so on my boat?” As he said this, Zhang CuiShan saw the boat rowing to the shore.

Zhang CuiShan thought, “If this person had been here all this time, he might have seen something that I missed. Perhaps I get some information from him.” So he walked over to the shore, waited for the boat to come, and then stepped onto the head of the boat.

The scholar on the boat stood up, smiled, and gestured with his arm for Zhang CuiShan to sit down. Under the lantern light, Zhang CuiShan saw that this scholar’s hands are whiter than snow, his face delicate and slender, eyebrows curly and nose straight, more handsome than any exquisite scholar he had ever seen. Zhang CuiShan immediately realized that this scholar is actually a beautiful young woman in disguise.

Wu Dang is very strict when it comes to women. So when Zhang CuiShan saw a lone lady on the boat, his face started to blush bright red. As he quickly got off the boat, Zhang CuiShan said, “I didn’t know that you are a woman disguising as a man. Sorry to bother you.” That young woman did not respond. The boat then rowed away, while the young woman kept playing her zither, singing, “Tonight wish for no more excitement, but there will be many more future nights, under the Six United Pagoda*, weeping willows and rowing boats. How those gentlemen, come to have fun on the water.” As the boat disappeared into the darkness, so did the song and the sound of the zither.

*Note: I’m not sure too sure this is the right translation for the particular pagoda. Couldn’t find the reason for its name from the encyclopedia, so I just translated word-by-word. Anyway, it’s a big tourist attraction at the modern day Hang Zhou city.

Hearing such beautiful melody, after all that killing earlier, Zhang CuiShan could not help but just stand there in silence. Only after over an hour of stillness did he make his way back to the inn.

The next day, everyone found out about the mass murder at the Dragon Gate Escort Agency. But with Zhang CuiShan’s scholarly appearance, no one even thought he could be the culprit.

At around noon, he started to search for his brothers in the marketplace and at tourist spots. But there are no signs of them anywhere. At dusk, he suddenly remembered the young woman’s song: “Tonight wish no more for excitement, but there will be many more future nights, under the Six United Pagoda, with weeping willows and rowing boats. How those gentlemen, come to sightsee.” Zhang CuiShan thought, “As long as I act as a gentleman, it would be ok to see her. Sighs, if second and seventh brother were here, we could’ve gone together. Other than her, I really don’t have any other leads.”

After eating lunch, Zhang CuiShan began to walk towards the Six United Pagoda by the QianTang River.

End of Chapter 4.