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The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Chapter 19

Chapter 19 – Great Waves, School of Sharks

Not in his wildest dreams did Hong Qigong think the memorization contest would end up this way. Guo Jing beating Ouyang Ke and making him roll around on the ground seventeen or eighteen times would be ten times more believable to him. He was so happy that he could not wipe the smile off his face. Hearing Ouyang Ke protesting he snapped, “What? You are not convinced?”

“What Brother Guo recited was a lot more than what was written in the book,” Ouyang Ke said, “He must have the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ in his possession. Junior has the courage to ask to search him.”

“Island Master Huang had accepted his proposal,” Hong Qigong said, “What other business is there to discuss? Didn’t you hear what your uncle said before the tests?”

Ouyang Feng glared. “Do you think a man surnamed Ouyang would be easily deceived?” he said. He heard what his nephew just said and was convinced that Guo Jing knew the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. He wanted very much to get the book for himself. Whether Huang Yaoshi accepted his marriage proposal or not became secondary to him.

Guo Jing took off his belt and opened up his clothing, saying, “Senior Ouyang, you can search me if you want to.” He immediately took everything out of his pockets and placed them on top of a big rock nearby: silver coins, a handkerchief, a flint and the like.

“Humph!” Ouyang Feng snorted and began searching Guo Jing’s body. Huang Yaoshi had known Ouyang Feng as a ruthless man for a long time and he would do unpredictable things when angry. His strength was profound and if he put forth a violent hand, nobody would be able to rescue Guo Jing. Huang Yaoshi coughed, stretched out his left hand and placed it on Ouyang Ke’s neck close to his spine; it was a vital point. Should Huang Yaoshi put some force into it, Ouyang Ke’s spine would break and Ouyang Feng could give up any ideas of saving him.

Hong Qigong knew his intentions very well and he was fascinated, “Old Heretic Huang is really one-sided. Now that he gives favor to his daughter and future son-in-law he wants to protect this dumb disciple of mine. Ay! He was capable of reciting the whole book, so I can’t call him dumb anymore.”

Originally Ouyang Feng was going to strike Guo Jing’s lower abdomen with his ‘Toad Stance’ energy and let him suffer for three years before he finally died. Seeing that Huang Yaoshi had guarded against his scheme he did not dare to strike. He searched Guo Jing’s body without any results. All he could do was stay silent for a long time, thinking really hard. He did not believe all this nonsense about Madame Huang’s spirit choosing her son-in-law. He recalled that this kid was dumb, slow and apparently he could not lie. Perhaps he could coerce the whereabouts of the Manual from him. He shook the staff in his hand and with a scratching sound the two weird looking snakes slithered up the length of the staff.

Huang Rong and Guo Jing had seen these strange animals; they were frightened and moved back one step. Pointing at Guo Jing’s throat, he asked, “Nephew Guo, where did you learn the ‘Nine Yin Manual’?” His eyes were blazing red as he looked at Guo Jing with a penetrating glare.

“I know about the ‘Nine Yin Manual’, but I have never seen it,” Guo Jing said. “The first volume is in the hands of Zhou Botong, Big Brother Zhou …”

“Why did you call Zhou Botong ‘Big Brother Zhou’?” Hong Qigong asked, “Have you met the Old Urchin Zhou Botong?” “Yes,” Guo Jing replied, “Big Brother Zhou and your disciple have become sworn brothers.”

“One is old and the other young,” Hong Qigong mocked, “That’s really preposterous!” “What about the second volume?” Ouyang Feng asked.

“The second volume was in Mei Chaofeng … Mei … Mei Shijie’s hands, but it was lost at Lake Tai,” Guo Jing explained. “Right now she is under Father-in-law’s orders to search for it everywhere. Disciple was thinking that after everything is done here, I will go and lend her a helping hand.”

Ouyang Feng asked fiercely, “If you have not seen the ‘Nine Yin Manual’, how can you recite it so well?”

Guo Jing was puzzled. “Did I recite the ‘Nine Yin Manual’?” he asked, “That can’t be. I recited a text Big Brother Zhou taught me; he said it was his own secret martial arts creation.”

Huang Yaoshi inwardly sighed. He was dismayed and thought, “Zhou Botong received his late martial brother’s order to guard the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. We played with marbles and he lost to me; I tricked him and in the end he burned the book. Up to that time he had not looked at the contents of the book at all, which was not at all strange. But now there seems to be some divine intervention; everything has happened so coincidentally that my daughter ended up betrothed to him. Isn’t he very lucky?”

Huang Yaoshi was still deep in thought as Ouyang Feng pressed on, “Where is Zhou Botong now?” he asked.

Guo Jing was about to answer when Huang Yaoshi cut him off, “Jing’er, there’s no need to say more.” Turning his head to Ouyang Feng he said, “It is such a trivial matter, why do you care so much? Brother Feng, Brother Qi, we have not seen each other for twenty years. Let us spend three days together on Peach Blossom Island, drinking to our hearts’ content.”

“Shifu, I am going to prepare some food for you,” Huang Rong said, “The lotuses on this island are superb; so how about some chicken steamed in lotus petals, or some fresh water chestnut and lotus leaf soup? I am sure you’ll like it.”

Hong Qigong smiled widely, “Now that you’ve gotten your heart’s desire, look how happy you are!”

Huang Rong just gave him a faint smile. “Shifu, Uncle Ouyang, Brother Ouyang, please,” she said. She was extremely happy to be betrothed to Guo Jing so that her animosity toward Ouyang Ke had vanished into thin air. At this very moment everybody in the whole wide world was, to her, a good person.

Ouyang Feng raised his hands in respect to Huang Yaoshi, “Brother Yao, I must decline your great hospitality. Many thanks. Let us part today.”

“Brother Feng has come a long way,” Huang Yaoshi replied, “Brother has not fulfilled my responsibility as a good host; how can I let you leave?”

Ouyang Feng had come from thousands of li away, not only for his nephew’s sake, but for another grand scheme as well. He’d received his nephew’s carrier pigeon message which said that the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ had reappeared and was in the hands of Huang Yaoshi’s renegade blind female disciple. After the wedding he planned to join forces with Huang Yaoshi and obtain the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. But now the marriage proposal failed; his nephew lost the competition and he felt really dejected, so he insisted on leaving.

“Uncle!” Ouyang Ke suddenly said, “Your nephew is useless and I have made you lose face. But Uncle Huang has promised that he will teach Nephew some skills.”

“Humph!” Ouyang Feng muttered. He was aware his nephew had not given up hope on the Huang family’s girl, so he’d found some excuse to stay longer to be close to Huang Rong and try to win her heart. Who knows, she might eventually fall into his hands?

Huang Yaoshi was upset. He erroneously thought that Ouyang Ke would win the three tests and that was why he made that promise to reward Guo Jing. But it was Ouyang Ke who unexpectedly failed the tests. Apologetically he said, “Nephew Ouyang, your uncle’s martial arts are unparalleled in the world; others cannot hold a candle to him. You have mastered your own family heritage skills, what need do you have to learn somebody else’s? This old dog was lucky to master some ‘back door second rate’ [zuo dao pang men] techniques. If Nephew does not think it too superficial, then whichever skill you’d like to learn, this old dog will be happy to teach it to you.”

Ouyang Ke thought, “I must choose the one that needs the longest time to master. I have long heard about Peach Blossom Island’s ‘Five Elements Open Gateway’ [wu xing qi men] as being number one in the world. I am sure he won’t be finished in a day.” Thereupon he bowed and said, “Young Nephew admires your ‘wu xing qi men’ techniques so much. I am asking Uncle to kindly bestow that on me.”

Huang Yaoshi did not answer immediately; he hesitated with an awkward feeling in his heart. The technique requested was the one he was most proud of. Apart from it being complicated to begin with, he had expanded and developed new interpretations and variations of the original technique he learned from his ancestors. His own daughter, because of her young age, had not learned this technique so how could he pass this knowledge to a total stranger? But he had given his promise and it was impossible to take back, so reluctantly he asked, “The ‘wu xing qi men’ technique is very broad and deep. Which one do you want to learn?”

Ouyang Ke wanted to stay on Peach Blossom Island as long as possible, so he requested, “Young Nephew saw the winding pathways of Peach Blossom Island; the vegetation arrangement is very complicated. My heart admires this arrangement to no end. I am asking Uncle to allow young nephew to stay on the island for several months and thoroughly study the mystery of these complicated pathways and their variations.”

Huang Yaoshi’s face changed slightly and he cast a glance towards Ouyang Feng. He thought, “So you want to investigate and find out about Peach Blossom Island’s ingenious arrangements. What is your real intention?”

Ouyang Feng saw his expression and could guess what was in his heart, so he chided his nephew, “You don’t know how high the heavens are or how deep the earth is! Uncle Huang has spent half of his life painstakingly arranging the island. It is his defense against intruders; how could he divulge this mystery to you?”

Huang Yaoshi laughed coldly, “Peach Blossom Island is only a barren and rocky hill; I doubt if anybody would come and harm me.” Ouyang Feng smiled apologetically, “Little Brother rudely made an indiscreet remark, Brother Yao, please don’t be offended.” Hong Qigong laughed, “Old Poison! You are very sly; this is what you planned from the start. Quite brilliant!” he mocked.

Huang Yaoshi slipped the jade flute into his belt and said, “Everyone, please follow me.”

Ouyang Ke saw the indignation on his face, so he looked to his uncle for guidance. Ouyang Feng nodded his head and started to walk behind Huang Yaoshi. Everybody followed not too far behind.

Winding through the bamboo grove they arrived at a big lotus pond. The lotuses were white, emitting a fragrant scent. The pond’s surface was covered with lotus leaves and there was a strip of causeway made of small stones winding through the center of it. Huang Yaoshi walked along the causeway leading everyone to a building on the other side of the pond. The building was made from pine logs and a rattan tree climbed the outside wall. It was midsummer and the weather was hot, but as soon as they saw that building everyone felt a burst of cool air. Huang Yaoshi led the four people into his study. A deaf and mute servant immediately came and served tea. The tea was dark green and as cold as snow. As soon as it entered their mouths the cold seeped into their bones.

Hong Qigong laughed and made a comment, “People say: ‘after being a beggar for three years one would not be willing to be a government official’. Brother Yao, if I stayed in your cool place for three years, I wouldn’t be willing to be a beggar any longer!”

“If Brother Qi is willing to stay to drink and talk to our hearts’ content, that would truly be my wish come true,” Huang Yaoshi said.

Hong Qigong could hear the sincerity in his voice and his heart was touched. “Many thanks,” he said, “It’s a pity the Old Beggar leads a busy and laborious life; I don’t have the luxury of enjoying a peaceful life like Brother Yao.”

Ouyang Feng said, “With the two of you living in the same place, as long as you don’t fight each other, I’ll bet within two months you will have created several sets of fist techniques or sword stances.”

Hong Qigong laughed, “Are you jealous?”

“This room is a big hall for studying martial arts,” Ouyang Feng explained, “It’s natural that I would come to that conclusion.” Hong Qigong laughed, “Ha … ha …! It’s another one of those, ‘what-you-say-is-not-what-you-were-thinking’ sort of speech.”

Although these two men did not hold deep animosity towards each other, their minds were worlds apart and that was why they did not like each other. Ouyang Feng’s feelings were hidden behind a thick wall, unlike Hong Qigong who was open and outspoken. When Ouyang Feng heard Hong Qigong’s comment he wanted to send Hong Qigong to the grave with one strike…but his face did not show it. He laughed but did not say anything.

Huang Yaoshi pressed something on the side of the table and a landscape painting on the west wall slowly rose, revealing a secret compartment behind it. He walked towards the wall, opened up the door to the compartment and took out a roll of paper. He gently ran his fingers on the scroll several times before he faced Ouyang Ke and said, “This is the map of Peach Blossom Island, complete with all the five elements variations, the yin and yang elements and the eight-trigram changes; everything is there. Take this and study it thoroughly.”

Ouyang Ke was disappointed; he was hoping he could stay on Peach Blossom Island for a while. He did not expect that Huang Yaoshi would only give him a map to look at. He knew it would be a difficult topic to learn; since he did not have a choice, he bowed respectfully and stepped forward to take the scroll from his hand.

“Hold on!” Huang Yaoshi suddenly said. Ouyang Ke was startled, he pulled his hand back. “When you take this drawing, I want you to go to Lin’an and find an inn or a temple to stay in. After three months I will send someone to retrieve it. You can memorize everything on the map; but I forbid you to make any copies,” Huang Yaoshi continued.

Ouyang Ke thought, “You won’t allow me to stay on Peach Blossom Island; it’s just as well since I don’t care much about your weird skills anyway. For the next three months I will be responsible for this chart. If I’m not careful I might lose or damage it; then what would I do? No, I’d better not take it!” He was going to say some nice words to decline the offer when suddenly another thought came into his mind, “He said he is going to send someone to retrieve it; that someone must be his daughter. That will be a great opportunity to get intimate with her.” He was delighted with this thought and immediately held out his hand to receive the scroll while uttering some grateful words.

Huang Rong took the small box with the dragon pill and gave it back to Ouyang Feng. “Uncle Ouyang,” she said, “This is your poison antidote pill; your niece does not dare to accept it.”

Ouyang Feng thought, “If this thing fell into the Old Heretic Huang’s hands, he will be impervious to my poisons. Although taking it back again seems so petty, I can’t afford to let him have it.” Therefore, he held out his hand to take the pill and immediately raised his hands to say goodbye to Huang Yaoshi.

Huang Yaoshi did not hold him back and sent them on their way. Walking to the door Hong Qigong said, “Poison Brother [Du Xiong], our Sword Meet on Mount Hua is at the end of next. You have to conserve your energy well since we are going to have a very tight competition.”

Ouyang Feng simply smiled casually, “The way I see it, we needn’t waste our energy fighting. The title ‘the world’s number one martial artist’ has already been decided.”

Hong Qigong was taken aback, “Already been decided? Could it be that Du Xiong has mastered a matchless and unique skill?”

Ouyang Feng showed a faint smile, “With such mediocre skills, how would Ouyang Feng dare to covet the title ‘the world’s number one martial artist’? I am talking about the person who taught our Nephew Guo.”

Hong Qigong laughed, “Are you talking about the Old Beggar?” he said, “I’d like that, but Brother Yao’s martial arts improve daily. For you, Poison Brother, advancing years also mean advancing skills. I am afraid Emperor Duan’s martial arts skill is not getting weaker either. I don’t think the Old Beggar will have any advantage.”

Ouyang Feng coldly said, “Of the people who taught Nephew Guo, it’s not necessarily Brother Qi’s martial arts that were the finest.”

“What?” Hong Qigong had barely closed his mouth when Huang Yaoshi interrupted, “Uh, are you talking about the Old Urchin Zhou Botong?”

“That’s right!” Ouyang Feng replied, “Since the Old Urchin has mastered the ‘Nine Yin Manual’, then all of us: the Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor and Northern Beggar, are no longer his match.”

“That is not necessarily true,” Huang Yaoshi said, “A manual is dead, but martial arts are alive.”

Ouyang Feng noticed earlier that Huang Yaoshi had diverted his question and he did not let Guo Jing tell them Zhou Botong’s whereabouts. He knew something was amiss; so he decided to mention it again just before he left. Hearing what Huang Yaoshi said, he knew his suspicions were not unsubstantiated; but he was crafty, so his face did not show any change. Nonchalantly he said, “We all know the quality of the Quanzhen Sect’s martial arts; we even need to ask for their advice. Now that the Old Urchin has added the skills of the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ to that, even if Wang Chongyang were alive, I doubt even he would be his match, no need to mention us. Ay! The Quanzhen are very good; even if the three of us worked hard for a lifetime, we are still a notch below them.”

“The Old Urchin’s martial arts are a lot better than mine,” Huang Yaoshi said, “But it has not reached Brother Feng or Brother Qi’s level. I know this for a fact.”

“Brother Yao does not need to be modest,” Ouyang Feng said, “You and I are ‘ban jin ba liang’ [lit. half a ‘jin’ to eight ‘liang’ = comparable or equal]. You have said yourself that Zhou Botong’s martial arts are not as good as yours. However, I am afraid …” He shook his head.

“Brother Feng will find out next year at the Sword Meet on Mount Hua,” Huang Yaoshi smiled.

Ouyang Feng was serious, “Brother Yao, I usually respect your martial arts, but I doubted it when you said you can defeat the Old Urchin. When it comes to him, you’d better watch out.”

It was not that Huang Yaoshi did not know that he was being provoked, but he was a proud man, so of course he did not want anyone to belittle him. Seething with indignation he said, “The Old Urchin is actually on Peach Blossom Island. Brother has imprisoned him here for fifteen years.”

Ouyang Feng and Hong Qigong were dumbstruck. Hong Qigong simply raised his eyebrows, but Ouyang Feng actually broke out laughing, “Brother Yao…that is a very good joke!”

Huang Yaoshi did not say anything but pointed his finger as if showing the way; then he exerted strength to his feet and flew back to the bamboo groove. Hong Qigong followed with his left hand holding Guo Jing’s arm, his right hand Huang Rong’s. Ouyang Feng took Ouyang Ke’s arm and together they used their lightness kungfu. Not too long afterwards they arrived in front of Zhou Botong’s cave.

When they were still quite a distance away Huang Yaoshi noticed that the cave was empty. “Ah!” he uttered in surprise. With his body as light as a feather, he leaped up into the sky and after several jumps he arrived at the cave’s mouth. His left foot landed first, only to feel as if he’d stepped on an empty space. Even encountering this situation suddenly, he did not panic; he kicked his right foot into the air and jumped vertically. Again he landed gently with his left foot, but again felt he was stepping onto empty air. This time he was not able to use anything as a stepping stone, so with the backward flick of his hand he pulled the jade flute from his belt and in one fluid motion struck the cave wall with the flute. With one push his body flew out of the cave like an arrow.

That vertical leap, pulling out the jade flute and flying backwards outside of the cave was done in a flash. Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng, seeing his wonderful skill, cheered…only to hear a “Splotch!” sound. Huang Yaoshi’s feet had landed in a hole in the ground outside the cave.

Huang Yaoshi felt his feet stepping on something wet and soft. With a light kick once again his body flew up. While he was still in the air he saw Hong Qigong and the rest had arrived and they did not fall into any traps. He landed gently at his daughter’s side. Suddenly a foul stench attacked his nostrils; he looked down and, to his dismay, he saw his feet were covered with faeces.

Everyone was puzzled. With his high level of martial arts skill, plus his intelligence, how could Huang Yaoshi fall into someone’s trap?

Huang Yaoshi was furious; he took a tree branch to test the ground, poking to the east and striking to the west. To his surprise, only those three holes were there, the rest was solid ground.

Obviously Zhou Botong had expected him to come rushing into the cave, so he’d prepared the first hole. He had carefully calculated that with his level of lightness kungfu Huang Yaoshi would leap up vertically to avoid falling into that hole; therefore, he prepared the second hole. Again, he knew that this second hole would not trap Huang Yaoshi. So he cleverly placed the third hole, knowing Huang Yaoshi would leap backwards out of the cave, and filled this hole with faeces.

Huang Yaoshi carefully entered the cave, looked in all directions, and saw nothing except some clay jars and clay bowls. He vaguely noticed several lines of characters written on the cave wall.

Watching Huang Yaoshi fall into a trap, Ouyang Feng laughed inside. But now he saw Huang Yaoshi walking towards the cave wall to take a look; he thought there was a slight possibility that the’ Nine Yin Manual’ was written on that wall, so he threw caution to the wind and hurriedly went forward to take a closer look. What he saw was several characters carved with a needle which read, “Old Heretic Huang, you have broken both of my legs and imprisoned me inside this cave for fifteen years. I should have broken both of your legs to vent my anger. But after some thought I decided to let it pass. I give you this pile of faeces and a pot of stinky urine instead. Please, please …” The characters below the ‘please’ were covered by a leaf.

Huang Yaoshi casually stretched his hand to lift the leaf up, but the leaf was tied to a string. Without thinking he pulled the string only to hear a knocking noise above him. Realizing what was happening Huang Yaoshi quickly jumped to the left. Right next to him Ouyang Feng was also quick; seeing Huang Yaoshi move, he jumped to the right. Who would have thought that following a series of clanking sounds, a bunch of clay jars fell from both sides? Both men were drenched in smelly urine!

Hong Qigong burst out in laughter, “How sweet! How sweet!” he shouted. Huang Yaoshi was fuming mad and shouted some curse words. Ouyang Feng was very good at concealing his feelings, so he merely smiled.

Huang Rong dashed back to the house and brought a change of clothes for her father. She also brought one of her father’s robes for Ouyang Feng.

Huang Yaoshi decided to look inside the cave one more time, being very careful not to trip on any more booby-traps. He took down the leaf and saw two lines of very fine characters, “… don’t pull the leaf. There is smelly urine above to drench you. This is the absolute, one hundred percent, truth! Don’t ever say that I didn’t warn you.”

Huang Yaoshi was angry, but also amused. Suddenly he remembered that the urine was still a little bit warm; he turned and walked out the cave. “The Old Urchin did not leave too long ago; we can still catch up with him.”

Guo Jing was wary, “As soon as those two see each other they will certainly engage in a fierce battle,” he thought. But before he had a chance to voice his opinion Huang Yaoshi had already flown to the east.

Everybody knew the pathways of the island were mysterious and nobody dared to be left behind; so they followed closely. Not too far ahead they could see Zhou Botong leisurely strolling along. Huang Yaoshi exerted his strength to his feet and flew like an arrow leaving its bow and in a flash he approached Zhou Botong. He stretched out his hand to grab Zhou Botong’s neck.

Zhou Botong evaded to the left. Turning his body around, he called out, “Wow! It’s the sweet smelling Old Heretic Huang!” In this one grab Huang Yaoshi had used the skill he’d painstakingly trained for decades; it was swift and fierce. He was angry because of the urine and dung, so he’d used one hundred percent of his strength in that one attack. Who would have thought that Zhou Botong was able to evade his attack casually, as though it took not too much effort at all. Huang Yaoshi’s heart turned cold and he stopped his attack. He calmed himself and looked at Zhou Botong. To his surprise Zhou Botong’s hands were tied in front of his chest; but he was smiling happily and his face showed contentment.

Guo Jing rushed forward and said, “Big Brother, Island Master Huang has become my father-in-law; now we belong to the same family.”

Zhou Botong sighed, “What Father-in-law? Why didn’t you listen to me? Old Heretic Huang is wicked and weird; how can his daughter be any better? You will suffer the consequences for the rest of your life. Good Brother, let me tell you this: No matter what happens, you cannot take as your wife the daughter of someone who loves to drench himself in urine everyday. It’s a good thing you haven’t yet bowed to heaven and the earth to marry her; you can still slip away. Quickly, run away as far as you can, otherwise she’ll come looking for you …”

He was still babbling when Huang Rong stepped forward and smiled, “Big Brother Zhou, look who’s coming behind you?”

Zhou Botong turned his head, but of course he did not see anyone. Huang Rong raised her father’s smelly clothes and threw them towards his back. Zhou Botong heard the swishing sound and stepped sideways. “Splat!” the bundle of clothes fell to the ground dispersing its foul odor everywhere.

Zhou Botong doubled up with laughter. “Old Heretic Huang,” he said, “Even though you imprisoned me for fifteen years and broke both of my legs, I only let you to step in my faeces and drenched you with my urine. Don’t you think that is a fair trade?”

Huang Yaoshi pondered for a moment and felt Zhou Botong was right. He did not give it another thought and asked, “Why did you tie up your hands like that?”

“I have my reasons, which I can’t tell you,” Zhou Botong said, repeatedly shaking his head and looking solemn.

Actually when Zhou Botong was forced to endure suffering in that hole, he thought several times of coming out and fighting Huang Yaoshi. However, he realized that he was still not Huang Yaoshi’s match. Besides, if he got killed or heavily injured, who would defend the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ entrusted to him by his martial brother? Therefore, he had to swallow his pride and endure everything patiently. Then Guo Jing came onto the scene. Together they played four-hand mutual combat until one day he had the idea of fighting as two Zhou Botongs against one Huang Yaoshi. He was confident that no matter how high Huang Yaoshi’s skills were, he would be able to exact revenge for his fifteen years of suffering.

After Guo Jing left, he sat on the ground and all kinds of memories came flooding back to his mind: dozens of years of gratitude, grudges, love and hate came until he felt like a thick curtain was covering his mind. Suddenly he heard from the distance the flute, zither and whistle sounds battling each other. His spirits were stirred; he became agitated, wanted to dash out, and had difficulty controlling his emotions. He had been pondering his own set of questions for a while, “My little brother’s martial arts are still far below mine, but why is it that Old Heretic Huang’s flute sound did not affect him at all?” After he’d befriended Guo Jing for many days he started to understand Guo Jing’s personality. That day, after thinking deeply for a while, it suddenly dawned on him; “That’s right! That’s right!” he exclaimed, “He is young, does not understand the relationship between a man and a woman and does not know its pleasures and heartaches. Moreover, he is simple-minded, not ambitious, has a naïve personality and a pure heart. I, on the other hand, am old; but why do I still think about revenge? I am so narrow-minded. It really is ridiculous!”

Although he belonged to the Quanzhen Sect, he had never become a Taoist Priest; still, the Taoist principles were deeply ingrained in his heart: ‘peace and tranquility’ [qing jing wu wei], lead a simple life and suppress ambition, all those Taoist teachings. It was like a light bulb suddenly turned on in his head. He let out a long breath, stood up and walked outside of the cave. For the first time in many years he realized that the sky was so blue and the clouds so white. His heart became clear and bright. The suffering he experienced from Huang Yaoshi for the past fifteen years simply became a small matter in his mind.

Once outside he thought aloud, “Once I leave Peach Blossom Island I am not coming back. But if I don’t leave some souvenirs for the Old Heretic Huang, how will he remember me in the days to come?” Therefore, with much eagerness, he dug some holes and filled them with his faeces and found some jars and filled them with his urine. After working hard for half a day he finally left the cave.

He’d only walked several steps when he suddenly remembered something, “The pathways of Peach Blossom Island are strange, so how will I know the right path to take? If I leave Brother Guo on this island, chances are that more harm will come his way; I must take him with me. If the Old Heretic Huang tries to stop, ha … ha …, should the Old Heretic Huang want to fight, one Old Heretic Huang won’t be a match for two Old Urchins!” After thinking about that he casually swung his hand and ‘Crack!’ a small tree by the pathway broke in two. He was stunned! “How come I am so strong? This has nothing to do with the ‘Mutual Hands Combat’ technique.”

He swung his hand several more times and ‘Crack! Crack! Crack!’ without too much effort he broke seven or eight small trees along the way. He was horrified. “This … this is the energy cultivation from the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. I …when…when did I learn it?” All of a sudden his body was drenched in a cold sweat. “Strange, really strange!” he muttered.

He clearly remembered his late martial brother’s death wish; that no one from Quanzhen was allowed to learn anything from the manual. He hadn’t thought that in order to teach Guo Jing he had to recite the text to him everyday and used his hands to provide a clearer explanation; unexpectedly, the manual had become ingrained in his mind. Even in his sleep he would dream about the manual, so he subconsciously cultivated his energy based on the text. Since his martial arts were already high, his understanding of martial arts theory was also profound. Because the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ was based on Taoist principles which he had already learned, the manual became intertwined with his own basic knowledge. He did not wish to learn these martial arts, but it came to him anyway.

He vented his frustration by shouting loudly, “Bad! It’s really bad! This is called ‘once the ghost inhabits your body, you cannot drive it out’. I wanted to play a big joke on Brother Guo, but who knew that by smashing a big rock, the debris would hurt your own foot.”

He was depressed for a long while and kept knocking his head. Afterwards an idea came into his mind; he peeled off some tree bark, made a rope, then with his teeth he tied his own hands while muttering loudly, “From now on, since I cannot forget the manual completely, I must not resort to violence towards anyone. Even if the Old Heretic Huang chases me, I cannot fight him and therefore disobey my martial brother’s death wish. Ay, Old Urchin, Old Urchin, you reap what you sow!”

Of course Huang Yaoshi could not guess the reason. He only knew the Old Urchin was naughty and strange, so he simply said, “Old Urchin, this is Brother Ouyang, who I believe you have met, this is …” Before he could finish, Zhou Botong had walked around them all, sniffing here and there, and then he laughed, “This must be the Old Beggar Hong Qigong. I know he is a good man. ‘Heaven’s nets do not miss’! My stinky urine only drenched two people, the Eastern Heretic and the Western Poison. Ouyang Feng, you fought with me once and now I’ve soaked you with my urine; we are even now and nobody suffers a loss.”

Ouyang Feng merely smiled but did not say anything. He came close to Huang Yaoshi and whispered in his ear, “Brother Yao, this man’s martial arts are amazing; he’s already surpassed both you and me. I think it best not to provoke him.”

Huang Yaoshi thought, “We haven’t seen each other for twenty years, how would you know my martial arts are inferior to his?” To Zhou Botong he said, “Botong, I have asked you over and over to let me burn the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ as a sacrifice in front of my late wife’s memorial. As soon as you hand it to me, I am going to let you go. Where did you think you were going just now?”

“I am tired of living on this island,” Zhou Botong said, “I am going outside to take a stroll.” “And where is the manual?” Huang Yaoshi said holding out his hand.

“I gave that to you earlier,” Zhou Botong said.

“Don’t talk nonsense,” Huang Yaoshi said, “When did you give it to me?”

Zhou Botong smiled, “Guo Jing is your son-in-law, is he not? Then he belongs to you, does he not? I have passed on the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ from beginning to end to him; isn’t that the same as giving the manual to you?”

Guo Jing was surprised. Panic stricken he called out, “Big Brother, this … this … you taught me the ‘Nine Yin Manual’?” Zhou Botong burst out laughing, “Do you think it was a fake?”

Guo Jing was dumbstruck and he felt like a fool. Zhou Botong was so happy. It was exactly for this moment that he was willing to expend immense efforts to get Guo Jing to memorize the ‘Nine Yin Manual’; he wanted to see Guo Jing’s expression when he found out that he’d learned the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ in spite of his earlier refusal. Now that this goal was achieved, how could Zhou Botong be not as happy as he was crazy?

“The first volume was always in your hands, but where did you get the second volume?” Huang Yaoshi asked. “Didn’t your good son-in-law deliver it to me personally?” Zhou Botong smiled mischievously.

“I … I did not!” Guo Jing was taken aback.

Huang Yaoshi was very indignant and thought, “This kid Guo Jing dares to deceive me and poor blind Mei Chaofeng is still desperately looking for that book.” He shot an angry glare towards Guo Jing, then turned his head towards Zhou Botong, “I want the original manual.”

“Brother,” Zhou Botong called Guo Jing, “Help me take the book from my pocket.” Guo Jing stepped forward and groping inside Zhou Botong’s pocket he took out a book about half an inch thick. Zhou Botong held out his hand to receive the book and said to Huang Yaoshi, “This is the first volume of the manual; the second volume is folded inside it. If you have the skill, come and take it.”

“What kind of skill are you talking about?” Huang Yaoshi asked.

Zhou Botong held the book tightly in his hands, bent his head and said “Wait, let me think …” Quite a while later he smiled and said, “Pasting skill!”

“What?” Huang Yaoshi was puzzled.

Zhou Botong lifted his hands high in the air, and soon the book became a million pieces. A flurry of paper pieces flew from his hands like a flock of butterflies flying in all directions, carried by the sea breeze, floating to the east and scattering to the west. It would be impossible to track them down.

Huang Yaoshi was startled, angry and at the same time, surprised that Zhou’s internal energy was so profound. In that short period of time the book was completely gone. Remembering his late wife, Huang Yaoshi felt a stab of pain in his heart. “Old Urchin, you played a trick on me! Don’t ever think of leaving this island alive!” he shouted angrily. Flying forward his palm got very close to Zhou Botong’s face. Zhou Botong moved his body just a little bit and like a pendulum he swung to the left and to the right. With a swish, swish sound Huang Yaoshi’s palms danced in the air, very close to Zhou Botong’s body, but were not able to touch him. It was Huang Yaoshi’s specialty, the ‘Peach Blossom Divine Sword Palm’ [tao hua shen jian zhang]; who would have guessed that after about twenty stances, it seemed the palm technique was useless against Zhou Botong.

Huang Yaoshi was puzzled because Zhou Botong did not launch any counterattacks, while he had used all of his strength compelling Zhou Botong to withstand his attack. He was suddenly alarmed, “How could I, Huang Yaoshi, fight someone who has both his hands tied?”

Leaping back three steps he called out, “Old Urchin, I have done something inappropriate to you, but your legs have healed. Quickly break the rope binding your hands and let me fight your ‘Nine Yin Manual’ martial arts.”

Zhou Botong looked dismayed and repeatedly he shook his head, “I don’t want to lie to you, but I have my own difficulties. No matter what happens, I can’t take off the ropes.”

“Then let me take it off for you,” Huang Yaoshi said, immediately moving forward to touch his hands. “Aiyo! Help! Somebody help me!” Zhou Botong cried out and rolled around on the ground.

Guo Jing was shocked. “Father-in-law!” he called out. He was about to dash forward to block Huang Yaoshi when Hong Qigong held him back. “Don’t act foolishly!” he hissed. Guo Jing halted and watched. Even though Zhou Botong was rolling around on the ground, he was very agile. Huang Yaoshi grabbed and kicked but was unable to even touch his body.

“Look closely at how his body moves,” Hong Qigong whispered.

Only then did Guo Jing realize that Zhou Botong was moving according to the ‘Snake Slithers, the Wild Cat Flips’ [she xing li fan] from the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. He watched with a rapt attention. Every time he saw an exquisite move he would cheer, “Good!”

Huang Yaoshi was getting angrier; his hands flew everywhere, resembling a hatchet or a knife hacking in every direction. Zhou Botong’s long sleeve and part of his robe had been slashed by the strength of Huang Yaoshi’s hand. A moment later his long beard and long hair were also cut. Although he was not injured, Zhou Botong knew that if the fight was prolonged he might not stay so lucky. In perhaps half a move later he would be dead or at least heavily injured.

At that moment Huang Yaoshi’s left hand swept horizontally, while his right hand slashed down diagonally and each palm contained three deadly variations within. Zhou Botong knew that no matter how quickly he could move, it would be difficult to avoid this attack. He had no other choice but to exert his strength in both hands and break the rope. As soon as his hands were free, his left hand parried the attack, while his right hand went to his own back and scratched, “Aiyo! The itch is unbearable,” he said.

Huang Yaoshi was inwardly alarmed when he saw Zhou Botong acting so casually, even to the point of playfulness, while they were fighting ferociously. Huang Yaoshi sent out three more fierce stances and all three were his best ones.

“I can’t fight you with one hand,” Zhou Botong said, “Ay! I can’t help it. No matter what, I can’t let my martial brother down.” He put all his strength into his right hand and parried the attack; while his left hand hung loosely at his side. His strength was still inferior to Huang Yaoshi’s pure internal energy, so as soon as the two hands collided, Zhou Botong was shaken and he staggered back a few steps.

Huang Yaoshi flew forward with both palms surrounding Zhou Botong’s body. “Use both hands! With one hand you are not my match,” he called out.

“I can’t,” Zhou Botong said, “I have to use only one hand.”

Huang Yaoshi was indignant, “All right then, try this!” Both of his palms struck forward with full strength. A loud bang was heard and Zhou Botong fell down to the ground. He sat still with both eyes closed. Huang Yaoshi withheld his hands and saw Zhou Botong coughing and spurting blood from his mouth; his face was paper-white.

Everyone thought it was strange; had he really fought with Huang Yaoshi, even if he couldn’t win, he certainly wouldn’t have suffered so badly. Why did he insist on using only one hand?

Zhou Botong stood up slowly and said, “The Old Urchin has suffered the consequences of his own actions. Even though I had no intention to, I unexpectedly learned the martial arts from the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ and I violated my martial brother’s death wish. If I used both of my hands, Old Heretic Huang, you are not my match.”

Huang Yaoshi was aware that what he said was the truth; he was silent. He realized he had no reason to imprison Zhou Botong on the island for fifteen years and he also had no reason to injure him just now. He took a jade box from his pocket, opened it and produced three blood-red pills; he gave the pills to Zhou Botong and said, “Botong, there is no medicine under the heavens that can surpass these Peach Blossom Island red pills. Take one right now and then take the next two seven days apart and your internal injury won’t be a problem any longer. Let me take you away from this island.”

Zhou Botong nodded, took the pills and swallowed one; after circulating his breath for a while he vomited some congealed blood. He said, “Old Heretic Huang, your red pill is very effective; no wonder you are called ‘Yaoshi’ [master pharmacist]. Eek! Strange! Very strange! My name is ‘Botong’, I wonder what that means?” After pondering that question for a while he shook his head and said, “Old Heretic Huang, I must go now. Are you or aren’t you going to let me go?” “I do not dare stop you,” Huang Yaoshi replied, “It’s up to you if you stay or go. Brother Botong, from today, if you ever have the desire to come here, I will welcome you wholeheartedly. Now let me walk you to the boat which will take you back to the mainland.”

Guo Jing squatted to pick up Zhou Botong and carried him on his back as he followed Huang Yaoshi and walked to the seashore. Arriving at the dock he saw six or seven boats, both large and small.

“Brother Yao,” Ouyang Feng said, “You needn’t send a boat to take Big Brother Zhou home. He can ride on Little Brother’s boat.”

“In that case do as Brother Feng desires,” Huang Yaoshi said. He made a hand signal to a deaf and mute servant and that servant went onto a big boat nearby. When he reappeared he had a tray full of gold coins.

“Botong,” Huang Yaoshi said, “Take this money and use it to play around. Your martial arts are better than Old Heretic Huang’s. I admire you very much.”

Zhou Botong’s eyes shone with a mischievous twinkle. He looked towards Ouyang Feng’s big boat and saw a white flag on the bow. On the flag was embroidered a strange looking snake with two heads and both mouths were open showing forked tongues. He was not happy at all.

Ouyang Feng took a wooden whistle from his pocket and blew some notes; before long there came strange noises from the forest ahead. Two Peach Blossom Island servants came leading some White Camel Mountain snake herders out from the forest, followed by row after row of snakes which slithered onto the gangplank and went into the boat’s hold.

“I am not riding on Western Poison’s boat!” Zhou Botong cried out, “I’m scared of snakes!”

Huang Yaoshi smiled faintly, “That is all right too; you can ride on that boat.” He pointed to a boat nearby. Zhou Botong shook his head no, “I don’t want that boat, I want that BIG boat.”

Huang Yaoshi’s face changed a little. “Botong, that ship is damaged, it is not fixed yet. You can’t have it.”

Everybody could see that the boat’s stern was tall and the hull was painted blue and gold; it was very beautiful. It looked new and strong, why did he say it was damaged?

“Why can’t I ride on that boat?” Zhou Botong asked, “Old Heretic Huang, how come you are so stingy?”

“That is a most ill-fated boat, that’s why it is always anchored here,” Huang Yaoshi explained. “Since when have I been stingy? If you don’t believe me, I’ll have the boat burned for you to see.” After making some hand signals, four deaf and mute servants lighted some torches and rushed to the boat to burn it.

Zhou Botong suddenly sat on the ground, flailing his hands and feet, pulling his hair and beard and bawling loudly. Seeing him acting like that startled every one. Guo Jing was the only one who really knew his temperament so he was just fascinated. Zhou Botong pulled his beard and rolled around on the ground, “I want to ride on the new boat; I want to ride the new boat.” Huang Rong quickly moved forward to stop the four servants.

Hong Qigong smiled, “Brother Yao,” he said, “For all of my life the Old Beggar has been ill-fated. Let me accompany the Old Urchin on this ill-fated boat. We can use poison to combat poison. Let us see whether the Old Beggar’s unlucky aura wins, or if your ill-fated boat prevails.”

“Brother Qi, I thought you were going to stay on the island for several days,” Huang Yaoshi said, “Why such a hurry to leave?”

“Within a few days the world’s big beggars, medium-sized beggars, and little beggars will gather at Yueyang in Hunan province. They will look to the Old Beggar to appoint a new leader. Should the Old Beggar meet a calamity and return to heaven before appointing a successor, who will lead the world’s beggars? That’s why the Old Beggar has to go, whether he wants it or not. Your brother truly appreciates Brother Yao’s generosity. When your daughter and son-in-law get married, I will come back to disturb the wedding.”

Huang Yaoshi sighed, “Brother Qi, you are truly an ardent man; you dedicate your life toiling for others, like a horse that never stops galloping.”

Hong Qigong laughed, “The Old Beggar never rides a horse and my feet can’t be compared to a horse’s hoofs. Aiyo! Something’s wrong! You are indirectly scolding me by saying that my feet are hoofs; wouldn’t that mean you are saying I am a horse?”

Huang Rong laughed, “Shifu, you said it yourself, my father didn’t scold you.”

“Of course, a Shifu will always be inferior to a father,” Hong Qigong said, “Just for that I am going to take a Mistress Old Beggar and we’ll have a baby girl beggar for you to look after.”

Huang Rong clapped her hands, “That’s great! I will have a little beggar martial sister to play with. Won’t that be fun?”

Ouyang Ke stole a glance at her; in the bright sunlight she looked so beautiful with her pink cheeks like a spring flower and as colorful as the rosy-colored clouds at dawn. He couldn’t help but feel crazy about her. However, from her, his thoughts went to Guo Jing and his pulse quickened. Knowing she only had eyes for Guo Jing, his anger rose and he swore in his heart, “There will come a day when I will kill this stinky kid.” Hong Qigong held out his hand to help Zhou Botong onto the boat as he said, “Botong, I will accompany you on this new boat. Old Heretic Huang is so weird and we shouldn’t pay any attention to him.”

Zhou Botong was delighted, “Old Beggar, you are a very kind man, what do you say we become sworn brothers?”

Hong Qigong had not yet answered before Guo Jing interrupted, “Big Brother Zhou, you and I have become sworn brothers so how could you take my master as your sworn brother as well?”

Zhou Botong laughed, “What’s the problem? If your father-in-law is kind enough and lets me ride on this new boat, I might be so happy as to take him as my sworn brother too.”

“What about me?” Huang Rong laughed.

Zhou Botong squinted his eyes, “I am not too keen to take on a baby girl; if I look at pretty women too much, they turn into trash.” Taking Hong Qigong’s arm he walked to the boat.

Huang Yaoshi quickly blocked their way, stretching both arms and saying, “Old Huang does not dare to take advantage of others. Riding on this boat will bring more harm than good. Gentlemen, you don’t need to prove your courage, it is well known on the Central Plains.”

Hong Qigong laughed heartily, “You have repeatedly warned us; even if the Old Beggar returns to heaven due to seasickness I will still appreciate Brother Yao’s friendship.” Although he said those things jokingly, in his heart he was quite wary since Huang Yaoshi had twice tried to stop them from boarding the boat. He knew something was wrong with that boat, but Zhou Botong was insistent on going aboard. He’d seen with his own eyes how stubborn Zhou Botong was. If something really went wrong, Zhou Botong could not possibly face the danger alone with his internal injury and all. That was the reason he made up his mind to go with Zhou Botong.

Huang Yaoshi made a ‘humph’ sound and said, “You two gentlemen are experts in martial arts; I am sure you would be able to turn bad luck into good. Old Huang worries too much. You, the boy named Guo, you are going with them.”

Guo Jing was startled. When he became Huang Yaoshi’s son-in-law he was called ‘Jing’er’ but now Huang Yaoshi suddenly changed the way he called him; moreover, his expression was so stern. Looking at Huang Yaoshi he said, “Father-in-law …”

“Who’s your Father-in-law?” Huang Yaoshi cut him off with a harsh voice, “You are a greedy lying boy! If you ever set foot on Peach Blossom Island again, even half a step, don’t blame Old Huang for being ruthless.” Reaching backwards he grabbed a servant’s collar and shouted, “This is your example!” The deaf and mute servant’s tongue had been cut out, so only a low deep gurgling was heard from his throat as his body flew into the sea. His internal organs had been crushed by Huang Yaoshi’s palm. He dropped to the sea and in an instant disappeared without a trace among the waves.

The other deaf and mute servants were extremely terrified and they all knelt down at once. All were originally criminals and Huang Yaoshi had investigated their backgrounds carefully before capturing them one by one and taking them to the island. He cut out their tongues and pierced their ear drums, making them his slaves. He once said, “Old Huang is not a gentleman, so Jianghu people call me the Eastern Heretic. Naturally I don’t like gentlemen as my companions and I prefer wicked people to be my servants. The more wicked they are, the more I like them.” Seeing that servant, even though he deserved to be condemned, struck by his palm and thrown out into the sea without any reason, had shaken everyone. They could not help but sigh inwardly, “The Old Heretic Huang is really wicked.”

Guo Jing was frightened; he also knelt down on the ground. “What did he do to offend you?” Hong Qigong asked.

Huang Yaoshi did not answer his question, instead, he sternly asked Guo Jing, “Did you or did you not give the second volume of the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ to Zhou Botong?”

“I did give something to Big Brother Zhou, but I really did not know it was the manual,” Guo Jing said, “If I’d known …”

“What do you mean you didn’t know?” Zhou Botong interrupted. He was always ignorant as to what was serious and what was not. The more other people were upset, the more he wanted to play practical jokes on them. Without waiting for Guo Jing to explain he said, “You said it yourself, that you took that manual from Mei Chaofeng and said you were lucky that old man Huang Yaoshi didn’t know. You also said that after you mastered the manual, you will become the number one martial arts expert in the world.”

Guo Jing was stupefied. “Big Brother, I … when did I say that?” he said with a trembling voice. Zhou Botong’s eyes glittered and with a stern voice he said, “You certainly did say that.”

The fact that Guo Jing was able to recite the book was well-known to those present; whether he knew it was the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ or not, nobody cared. Now that Zhou Botong had confirmed it, Huang Yaoshi was very, very angry. Why would he think Zhou Botong was only joking? He forgot that Zhou Botong was childish and always liked to make jokes, while Guo Jing was naïve and unable to tell lies. He was so wild with rage that he was afraid he would rip Guo Jing apart and thus smear his own reputation; so instead he raised his hands in respect towards Zhou Botong, Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng, saying, “Please forgive me!” Pulling Huang Rong’s hand he turned around and walked away.

Huang Rong still wanted to have a few words with Guo Jing. “Jing ge ge …” she called; but she was pulled by her father and in a blink of an eye they had traveled dozens of feet, disappearing into the forest.

Zhou Botong burst out in laughter, but stopped abruptly because his chest hurt. Finally he chuckled and said, “The Old Heretic Huang has fallen into my trap. I spoke nonsense to deceive him and he took it seriously. Amusing…very amusing!”

Hong Qigong was taken aback. “Then Jing’er really didn’t know beforehand?” he asked.

Zhou Botong laughed, “Of course he didn’t know! He thought the ‘Nine Yin’ martial arts were evil; had he known, he wouldn’t have wanted to learn it with me. Brother, you memorized the manual really well didn’t you? Even if you want to forget it, you can’t, can you?” He held his stomach and burst out into laughter again and didn’t care if it hurt his chest, so his expression was really distorted.

Hong Qigong stomped his foot. “Ay! Old Urchin! Don’t you think this joke is too much? I am going to talk to Brother Yao.” Moving his feet he dashed into the forest, but the pathways were confusing and he did not know which way Huang Yaoshi had gone. As for the deaf and mute servants, as soon as their master left, they scampered away following him. Hong Qigong had no one to lead him, so he was compelled to come back. Then he suddenly remembered that Ouyang Ke had the detailed map of Peach Blossom Island. “Nephew Ouyang, can I borrow the Peach Blossom Island map, please?” he asked urgently.

Ouyang Ke shook his head, “Without Uncle Huang’s permission little nephew does not dare to let other people see it; Uncle Hong please don’t blame me.”

“Humph!” Hong Qigong snorted. In his heart he said, “I am really stupid; how can I borrow the map from this kid? He earnestly wishes for Old Heretic Huang to hate my dumb disciple.” While he was still staring at the forest he suddenly saw some white shadows coming. It turned out they were Ouyang Feng’s thirty-two white clothed dancing girls.

As they came close to Ouyang Feng, they bent their knees and one of them said, “Master Huang told us to go back with Master.”

Ouyang Feng did not even look their way; he simply waved his hand telling them to board his boat. To Hong Qigong and Zhou Botong he said, “I am afraid Brother Yao might have put some booby-traps on board. Don’t you two gentlemen worry, Little Brother will follow closely in my boat. In case of an emergency we can lend you a hand.”

Zhou Botong angrily said, “Who wants your charity? I want to see what kind of gadgets Old Heretic Huang put on his boat. If you follow us the danger won’t be there; where is the fun part then? If you mess with me, the Old Urchin will drench you with urine one more time!”

Ouyang Feng laughed, “Very well! In that case, until we meet again.” He cupped his fists and took his nephew aboard his boat.

Guo Jing was still staring blankly at where Huang Rong had disappeared, lost in thought. Zhou Botong laughed, “Brother, let us board the boat. I wonder if this ill-fated boat will swallow the three of us alive” His left hand took Hong Qigong’s arm and his right hand pulled Guo Jing along and together they boarded the new boat.

The boat came with seven or eight sailors who waited to serve them; they were all mute. Zhou Botong laughed, “One day Old Heretic Huang will be so angry that he cuts out his precious daughter’s tongue. Only then will I admire him for having guts.” Listening to this Guo Jing could not help but shiver. Zhou Botong saw him and laughed heartily, “Are you afraid?” he asked, and then made a hand signal to the sailors to start sailing. The sailors hoisted the anchor and raised the sail; under a southern wind they headed north.

“Come,” Hong Qigong said, “Let us take a look at this boat and see what is so strange about it.” Three men walked the boat from stem to stern; from the deck to the bottom of the hold. The boat was painted in bright and clear paint and the hold contained a supply of food and drinks…water, white rice, wine, meat and vegetables in abundance. But nothing was out of the ordinary.

“Old Heretic Huang deceived us!” Zhou Botong said hatefully, “Where is the strange thing on this boat he was talking about? He is such a liar!”

Hong Qigong, however, still had doubts. He leaped to the mast and with his strength tried to rock the masts and the sails, but again, he found nothing out of the ordinary. He lifted his eyes and looked in the distance; he saw seagulls flying, the waves rolling and the horizon where the sea met the sky. The boat’s three sails were fully raised as they headed north. He opened his collar and enjoyed the invigorating wind. Turning his head he saw Ouyang Feng’s boat following approximately two li [about 1 km] behind.

Hong Qigong leaped down from the mast and made a hand signal to the sailor at the rudder telling him to change course to the northwest. A moment later he looked again and saw that Ouyang Feng’s boat had also changed direction to the northwest.

“What is he following us for?” Hong Qigong muttered under his breath, “Can he really have good intentions? The day Old Venom shows kindness of heart, the sun may have to rise in the west.” He was afraid if Zhou Botong knew he would throw a fit of temper. He didn’t say anything, but signaled the sailor to change course to the east.

The boat made such an abrupt turn that the sails were almost touching the water and they slowed down. In approximately the time needed to drink a cup of tea Ouyang Feng’s boat also changed direction to the east. “If you want to settle our score on the sea, that’s all right with me,” Hong Qigong thought.

He left the deck to enter the cabin and saw Guo Jing looking depressed; he was quiet and lost in thought. Hong Qigong said, “Tu’er [disciple], let me teach you how a beggar begs for rice: if the master of the house does not give you anything, you hang around his door for three days and three nights and see if he still refuses to give you anything.” Zhou Botong laughed, “What if the master of the house owns a vicious dog? What if he told the dog to bite you because you don’t want to go? What would you do?” he asked.

Hong Qigong laughed, “In that case he is a heartless rich man. If you come again at night and steal his belongings, you are not violating heaven’s law.”

Zhou Botong turned to Guo Jing. “Brother, do you understand your Master’s speech? He taught you to be persistent in front of your father-in-law. If he still won’t give his daughter to you and beats you for no reason, then you can steal her at night,” he said, “But if you really want to steal that treasure, you don’t have to do it yourself; all you need to do is call out, ‘bao bei er [Treasure, precious], come!’ And she will come out and follow you.”

Listening to him Guo Jing was unable to restrain a smile. He watched Zhou Botong pacing up and down the cabin; he could not stay still even for a moment. Suddenly a thought came into his mind, “Big Brother, do you have a destination in mind?” he asked.

“I don’t have one,” replied Zhou Botong, “I will go where my heart tells me to. I stayed on Peach Blossom Island for too long and I felt cooped up.”

“I have a favor I’d like to ask Big Brother,” Guo Jing said.

Zhou Botong shook his head. “No, I am not going to Peach Blossom Island to help you steal a wife, I don’t want to.” Guo Jing blushed, “No, not that,” he said, “I want to bother Big Brother to visit Cloud Manor in Yixing, by Lake Tai.” “What for?” Zhou Botong asked.

“The Cloud Manor Master, Lu Chengfeng is a brave hero,” Guo Jing explained, “He was Father-in-law’s disciple. Because of the ‘Twin Killers of the Dark Winds’, Father-in-law broke his legs and he became a cripple. Big Brother’s legs recovered, so I want to ask Big Brother to teach him the technique of healing his legs.”

“That’s easy,” Zhou Botong said, “Even if Old Heretic Huang broke my legs again, I know how to heal myself. If you don’t believe me, go ahead, break my legs.” After saying that, he sat on a chair and stretched out his legs with a challenging look on his face.

Guo Jing smiled, “I don’t need to try, I know Big Brother has this ability,” he said.

While they were still talking a loud crashing noise was suddenly heard. The door burst open and a sailor came rushing in with a terror- stricken expression. He could not speak, so he just gesticulated in panic. Three of them knew something was terribly wrong, so they dashed out of the cabin.

o0o

Huang Rong wanted to have a word with Guo Jing but was pulled away by her father. She was very upset. As soon as they arrived at their home she went straight to her room and locked the door, crying uncontrollably. In anger Huang Yaoshi had expelled Guo Jing from the island; now that his anger had subsided he regretted his rash decision. He realized he had sent Guo Jing to his death. He wanted to comfort his daughter, but no matter how hard or how long he knocked on her door, she just turned a deaf ear to him. During supper he called for her, but she did not appear; he sent a servant with Huang Rong’s dinner but she threw it to the floor and even hit the servant a couple of times.

“Father said that if Jing ge ge ever sets his foot on this island again he will kill him. I want to go and find him, but how can I leave Father alone here? He will definitely be grieved,” Huang Rong pondered it back and forth, but could not come up with any ideas until her stomach hurt.

Several months ago Huang Yaoshi scolded her and she ran away from the island; with childish thoughts she did not want to go back. Afterwards, when she met her father again, she saw that the number of white hairs on his temple had suddenly increased. It had only been several months, but he looked ten years older than she remembered him. She felt really sorry, and promised in her heart never to leave him again. Who would have thought that she would now face this difficult situation? She stayed on her bed all day, crying. She thought, “If Mother were still alive, she would take care of me; would she allow me to suffer like this?”

While thinking about her mother she decided to get out of the room and walked through the hall to the front door. Her house on Peach Blossom Island had a front door that was always open, night and day, unless there was storm coming. Huang Rong went out into the yard. There was a starry sky and the air was heavy with the scent flowers. “Jing ge ge must be many li away by now; I wonder when we are going to see each other again,” she wondered in her heart. She heaved a deep sigh, wiped the tears from her eyes with the end of her long sleeve, and walked toward the flower bushes at the end of their yard. Entering the bushes and brushing away the leaves she arrived at her mother’s tomb.

The exquisiteness of the coffin’s wood, the various plants and rare orchids and the different flowers that bloomed at different seasons, were all Huang Yaoshi’s personal choices. They glowed in the moonlight with each radiating its own unique scent. Huang Rong pushed the entrance stone three times to the left and three times to the right; then exerting her strength she pushed it. The entrance stone slowly moved to the side, revealing a long and narrow stonewalled tunnel. She went in, and after making three turns, she arrived at another secret door. Beyond this door was where the coffin was placed. The room was lit by an oil lamp inside a precious stone container, illuminating Huang Rong’s mother’s memorial tablet. Alone in that small underground room and seeing the painting of her deceased mother made by her father’s own hand, Huang Rong’s heart was filled with a roller coaster of emotions. She thought, “I have never seen Mother. I wonder if, after I die, will I meet her? Was she really that young and beautiful as in the picture? Where is she right now? Is she in the heaven above, in the earth below, or still in this room? I am going to stay here forever to accompany her.”

Along the walls of this tomb there were precious jewels, antique collections, paintings and calligraphy from famous artists; each worth a fortune. After his wife died, Huang Yaoshi roamed the sea and lakes to collect these precious articles. Whether it was inside the imperial palace, inside the house of some rich government official, or in a robbers’ den high up in the mountains, as long as he knew there was a treasure, he would come and steal it or take it by force. His martial arts were high and he had keen eyes and sophisticated tastes, so he managed to collect quite a few treasures which he piled up inside his wife’s tomb.

Huang Rong could see bright pearls, beautiful jade, emeralds and amethysts glimmering in the firelight; she thought, “These precious jewels don’t have any feelings, yet they will last for millions of years. Today I am looking at them in here, but in the future my body will turn into dust and they will still be here. Is it true that among living things, the smart and intelligent won’t have a long life? Was it because she was so smart that my mother died when she was only twenty?”

Huang Rong stared at her mother’s picture for a moment, heaved a sigh, then blew out the light and walked to her mother’s coffin. She stroked the coffin lovingly and sat on the floor. Her heart was heavy with self-pity. She was leaning on the coffin, pretending she was being cuddled at her mother’s side, relying on her for consolation. Earlier that day she experienced great joy and great anxiety; that night she was completely exhausted and after a while she drifted off to sleep.

She dreamt she was inside the Zhao Palace in Beijing, all alone and fighting a group of martial artists; then the scenery changed, she was in the northern area and unexpectedly met Guo Jing there. She’d barely said a few words to him when her mother suddenly showed up. She just knew it was her mother even though, try as she might, she could not see her face clearly. Then her mother started to fly into the sky while she called and pursued on the ground. Her mother was flying higher and higher and she was so scared. Then out of the blue she heard her father’s voice calling her mother. At first it was a distant sound, and then the voice got nearer and clearer. Huang Rong awoke with a start but her father’s voice could still be heard, mumbling indistinctly in front of the curtain. Then she calmed herself and realized that it was not a dream; her father was indeed inside the tomb, talking to her mother’s spirit.

When she was little her father often brought her here; he would tell her mother anything that happened outside, regardless of how trivial those matters were. For the past several years she did not go with her father as often, yet it did not surprise her to hear her father talking in front of the coffin. She was still upset with him and did not want to see him. She wanted to wait quietly until he left, but what she heard next surprised her.

“I have found your heart’s desire,” he said, “I know you suffered a lot that year you rewrote the ‘Nine Yin Manual’. I wanted to find it and burn it in your presence, so your spirit in heaven will be consoled. I have searched in vain for fifteen years, but today I found it.”

Huang Rong was surprised, “Where did Father get the ‘Nine Yin Manual’?” she wondered.

“I did not intentionally want to kill your son-in-law,” she heard her father continue. “But it was they who insisted on riding on that boat.”

Huang Rong was puzzled, “Mother’s son-in-law? Is he talking about Jing ge ge? He’s on that boat, then what?” She opened her ears and listened attentively.

Huang Yaoshi recounted how miserable and lonely his life had become since his wife passed away and how badly he missed her. Huang Rong listened to him pouring out his heart and her own heart was filled with sorrow. “Jing ge ge and I are mere youngsters and we love each other. I don’t think it will be impossible to see each other in the future; but I cannot leave my father,” she thought.

Once her mind was set, she continued listening to her father. “The Old Urchin destroyed the entire ‘Nine Yin Manual’ with the strength of his hands. I thought my hopes of sacrificing the manual to you were shattered. Who would have thought that, perhaps by divine intervention, he would insist on riding the boat I made for our future meeting?” he said.

“Every time I wanted to play aboard that boat Father always sternly prohibited me; how would he use the boat to meet Mother?” Huang Rong wondered.

Huang Yaoshi loved his wife very much. Moreover, his wife died because she wanted to make him happy. Therefore, he wanted to commit suicide as a sacrifice to her. But he knew his martial arts were profound, so he could not die easily by hanging himself or simply drinking a poison. Besides, if he died on the island, he was sure his deaf and mute servants would mutilate his body. Therefore he went to the mainland and kidnapped a highly skilled boat builder to build him this fancy boat.

This boat’s keel was no different than a regular boat’s, except that the bottom of the boat was not nailed together with metal nails, but put together with ropes and glue. Moored at the marina it looked like an extremely magnificent and beautiful yacht; but as soon as it sailed onto the sea, the waves would destroy the ropes and glue, and the boat would certainly sink.

Originally he intended to put his wife’s coffin on the boat, take the boat onto the sea and while the waves rocked the boat, he would play on his jade flute the ‘Jade-Colored Tidal Wave’ song. Together with his wife they would be buried thousands of feet beneath the sea. That way he would make a clean end to his life without disgracing his reputation as the martial arts master of his age. However, every time he wanted to go, he could not bear the idea of taking their daughter along, but who would raise her if he died? Finally he decided to build a tomb and placed his wife in it. He repainted the boat every year, so it always looked new. He was going to wait for their daughter to grow up before taking his last voyage. Of course Huang Rong did not know of her father’s plan. But she kept listening anyway. “The Old Urchin was able to recite the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ completely and that Guo kid could also recite it from memory. If I sink those two into the sea, it would be the same as though I was burning the two manuals for you. If your spirit in heaven knows this, you can then rest in peace. My only regret was that the Old Beggar Hong will lose his life in vain; it is rather unfair to him. Within one day I have killed three martial arts masters for your sake. When we meet again, you can certainly say that your husband has fulfilled his promise to you. Ha ... ha … !”

After listening to this last part, the hair on Huang Rong’s neck stood up and her heart turned very cold. She did not completely understand what was going on, but knowing her father’s abilities very well, she was sure that there must be something terribly wrong with that boat. She was anxious for the safety of Guo Jing and the other people on board. Her heart was filled with shock and sorrow at the same time. She wanted to stand up and beg her father to save them, but she was neither able to stand nor speak; her legs were weak and her throat dry from fear. She only heard her father’s long and mournful laughter – sounding like a song or a cry, as he walked out of the tomb.

Huang Rong tried to calm herself down and thought out loud, “I must go to rescue Jing ge ge. If I can’t make it, I will still die with him.” She knew her father’s strange temper well; he’d become crazy because of his excessive love for his deceased wife and it would be useless to ask him for help. She dashed out of the tomb towards the seashore where she jumped on a boat, woke up the deaf mute servants in charge of the boat and immediately set sail.

Suddenly she heard hoof beats coming her way and at the same time she could hear her father’s jade flute in the distance. Huang Rong looked back; it was Guo Jing’s little red horse, galloping in the moonlight. It had been wandering aimlessly on the island and that particular night it ran towards the seashore. Huang Rong thought, “Where can I find Jing ge ge on this boundless sea? The little red horse has divine abilities on dry land, but on the water it is completely useless.”

o0o

Hong Qigong, Zhou Botong and Guo Jing dashed out of the cabin only to find their feet submerged in water almost to their knees. They were extremely shocked. Immediately they jumped up onto the mast; Hong Qigong even remembered to snatch a couple of deaf and mute sailors. They looked down and saw the turbulent water rising fast. It all happened so fast that they were at loss as to what to do.

“Old Beggar,” Zhou Botong called, “Old Heretic Huang is so amazing! I just wonder how he built this boat?” “I don’t know!” replied Hong Qigong, “Jing’er, hold the mast tightly, don’t let go …”

Guo Jing was about to answer when a loud crack was suddenly heard; the boat broke in two and both halves slowly sank into the water. The two sailors were so shocked that they lost their hold on the mast and fell down into the raging water below. Zhou Botong flexed his muscles and jumped into the water.

“Old Urchin!” Hong Qigong called, “Do you know how to swim?”

Zhou Botong’s head came out of the water, “I guess I’ll just have to try …” he laughed. These exchanges happened in the midst of howling winds and they could not hear each other clearly.

By this time the mast was leaning far enough that it would hit the water very soon. Hong Qigong called out, “Jing’er, the mast is joined to the hull; let’s break it free. Come on!” The two gathered their strength and struck the mast near its center. Although the mast was made from solid wood, how could it withstand the combined forces of Hong Qigong and Guo Jing? After several strikes, with a ‘Crack’, the mast gave way. The two held on to it and together they fell into the sea below.

They were already many li away from Peach Blossom Island and looking in all directions there were towering waves as high as a mountain; there was no land in sight. Hong Qigong was secretly very anxious. Drifting on the sea like this, without food or fresh water, should nobody rescue them, they would certainly die in less than ten days no matter how high their martial arts skills were. Hong Qigong tried looking for Ouyang Feng’s boat but it was nowhere to be seen. He heard someone laughing hard to the south of them, it was Zhou Botong.

“Jing’er,” Hong Qigong said, “Let’s try going to him.” With one hand holding the mast, the other hand paddled towards Zhou Botong. The waves were quite strong, so as they moved dozens of zhang they were pushed back dozens of zhang.

“Old Urchin, we are coming!” Hong Qigong laughed. Due to his strong internal energy, his voice could be heard amidst the sound of the roaring waves around them. They heard Zhou Botong calling out, “The Old Urchin has become a dog in the water; sort of like an old dog in salty soup!”

Guo Jing was amused that in a situation as dangerous as this, he still had the urge to goof around; truly he did not bear the title ‘the Old Urchin’ in vain.

The sea was raging wildly around them and no matter how hard they tried, they were still dozens of zhang apart from each other. Only after working hard for a long time did they finally manage to get together on the broken mast. As soon as Hong Qigong and Guo Jing saw Zhou Botong, they were unable to stifle their laughter; Zhou Botong had used sail rope to tie a piece of board to his feet and used his excellent lightness kungfu to tread on the waves. Unfortunately the waves were too strong. Even though his body was going up and down with the waves, free and unrestrained, it was actually very difficult to move forward. Zhou Botong played on the water enthusiastically, seemingly oblivious of the danger they were facing. Guo Jing looked around to see their boat was gone along with all the crew; they were buried under the sea. Suddenly he heard Zhou Botong call out in alarm, “Aiyo! This is serious! The Old Urchin might meet a cruel death.”

Hong Qigong and Guo Jing heard his frightened voice and asked, “What is it?” Zhou Botong pointed his finger and said, “Sharks…a school of sharks!”

Guo Jing grew up on the steppes so he did not know how fierce a shark was. He turned around to see Hong Qigong’s face looking strange. He wondered what kind of monster a shark was that would make his master and big brother Zhou, who were used to facing danger with smiles on their faces, look so nervous.

Hong Qigong sent his strength to his palm and broke the end of the mast; then he divided the broken pieces further into two halves. Suddenly he saw a shark’s head appear amongst the white foam of the waves; its two rows of sharp white teeth glistening in the sunlight. It was only for a moment, and then it disappeared under the water. Hong Qigong threw a wooden stick to Guo Jing. “Aim for their heads!” he called out.

Guo Jing groped in his pocket and produced a dagger. “Disciple has a dagger!” he called back and threw the wooden stick toward Zhou Botong.

By now there were four or five sharks circling around Zhou Botong; it looked like they were assessing the situation, but no shark had attacked yet. Zhou Botong leaned over and struck; a shark’s head split open. As soon as the other sharks smelled blood they all attacked their dead comrade.

Guo Jing saw the water’s surface bubbling like boiling water; he wondered how many thousands of sharks were there. He saw white teeth flashing and in a very short moment, nothing was left of that dead shark. He was horrified. Suddenly he felt something bump his feet. Nervously he kicked around and a big shark shot up from the water towards him. With his left hand holding the mast he sent all his might to his right hand and with unmatched accuracy his extremely sharp dagger made a hole in the shark’s head. Again the water boiled as a group of sharks feasted on their dead companion. Thousands of sharks were moving and biting randomly in the water.

The three men’s martial arts were superb; surrounded by thousands of sharks they moved to the west and dodged to the east. Every time their hands struck, a shark was either dead or heavily injured while their own bodies were not even scratched. As soon as a shark bled, it became the other sharks’ food and in a flash it became a pile of cartilage sinking in the sea. Although the three’s martial arts were profound and they had great courage, when they saw this sight, they could not help feeling frightened. The sharks were uncountable and seemed like they were killing them endlessly. They did not have time to think of anything else; they needed all their energy and concentration to fight and fight and fight …

After hours of fighting they’d killed more than two hundred sharks, then fog began rising from the water as the sun slowly fell to the western horizon. Zhou Botong called out, “Old Beggar, Brother Guo, once the sky is dark all three of us will go into the sharks’ tummies. Shall we make a bet? Who will be first to be eaten?”

“Is the first to be eaten the winner or the loser?” Hong Qigong asked. “The winner, certainly,” Zhou Botong replied.

“Aiyo, in that case I’d rather be the loser,” Hong Qigong said. With the back of his hand he launched the ‘Divine Dragon Swings its Tail’ and hit a big shark on its side. That big shark weighed approximately 200 jins [100kg / 220 lbs], but because of Hong Qigong’s strength, it flew into the air, rolled twice, before it fell back into the water, creating a big splash. That shark turned belly up; it had been killed instantly.

“Excellent palm technique!” Zhou Botong praised, “I’ll bow to you and take you as my master so you can teach me the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’. It’s too bad I won’t have time to learn it. Old Beggar, do you want to compete with me?”

“I am sorry I can’t accommodate you right now,” Hong Qigong said.

Zhou Botong laughed heartily, “Brother, are you scared?” he asked Guo Jing.

In his heart Guo Jing was really scared; but seeing these two people were still able to chat and make jokes in a life and death situation his spirits were lifted. “I was scared, but not anymore,” he replied. Suddenly he saw a monstrous shark charging his way. He leaned sideways then lifted his left hand high in the air as bait. That big shark turned around and leaped out of the water to bite his hand. The dagger in Guo Jing’s right hand moved upward and stabbed beneath the shark’s mouth. Because the shark was moving forward, the dagger made a long cut along the shark’s body. Blood gushed and the contents of its stomach spilled out.

By that time Zhou Botong and Hong Qigong had each killed another shark. Zhou Botong had not yet recovered from Huang Yaoshi’s blow earlier; after fighting for such a long time he began to feel a severe pain in his chest. He laughed loudly and said, “Old Beggar, Brother Guo, I am so sorry I can’t continue much longer, I’ll have to be the first one going into a shark’s belly. Ay! Too bad you two didn’t want to bet. I would’ve won!”

Even though he was laughing, Guo Jing could hear the desperation in his voice. “All right!” he shouted, “I’ll bet with you!”

“At least now I can die an interesting death!” Zhou Botong laughed. As he turned around to avoid the converging attacks of two sharks charging in together he suddenly saw a high white sail far away. In the dim light of dusk a big private boat was cutting through the waves and coming their way.

Hong Qigong also saw the boat; it was Ouyang Feng’s. They were exuberant knowing that help was on the way. Guo Jing immediately came near Zhou Botong to help him fight the sharks. A moment later the boat arrived and lowered two small boats to rescue the three people. Zhou Botong vomited some more blood, but he would not stop talking and laughing. He was waving his finger at the sharks and cursing them incessantly.

Ouyang Feng and Ouyang Ke stood on the bow of the big boat to welcome them. As far as their eyes could see, the water was full of shark fins; they were inwardly alarmed.

Zhou Botong was unwilling to admit indebtedness, he said, “Old Poison, it was you who came and rescued us; I did not call you for help so I don’t owe you anything.”

“Naturally you don’t owe me anything,” Ouyang Feng replied, “Today I come across the three of you engaged in a shark killing spree; Little Brother was fascinated.”

Zhou Botong laughed, “You came across us and prevented us from playing inside the sharks’ bellies, so I will still call it even; we don’t owe anybody anything.”

Ouyang Ke and a snake herder put some big chunks of beef on an iron hook as bait and in a short period of time had hooked seven or eight big sharks.

Hong Qigong pointed at the sharks and laughed, “Good, you didn’t eat us, but it looks like we are going to eat you.”

Ouyang Ke laughed, “Little Nephew has a way to avenge Uncle Hong.” He quickly cut some short sticks, sharpened both ends, then pried open a shark’s mouth with a spear and stuck the wooden stick in the shark’s mouth. Then he kicked the shark back into the water.

Zhou Botong laughed, “That way the shark won’t be able to eat anything ever; I bet it will die within eight to ten days.”

Guo Jing thought, “Only he would think of such an evil plan. This gluttonous shark will starve to death in the sea. That is so cruel.”

Zhou Botong saw Guo Jing’s face showing a disgusted look, he laughed, “Brother, such a malicious trick is not pleasing to the eye, is it? Well, this is called ‘a poisonous uncle results in a poisonous nephew’.”

Hearing others cursing him as evil did not bother Western Poison Ouyang Feng at all; on the contrary, he was pleased. Listening to Zhou Botong he showed a faint smile and said, “Old Urchin, this small trick is nothing compared to what the Western Poison can do. You three are out of breath from fighting this bunch of baby sharks. Even though they are many, to me they are nothing.” After saying that he faced the sea, stretched out his right hand, moved it in a sweeping motion from left to right and said, “Even if there were ten times more sharks than these, I can annihilate them all without breaking a sweat.”

“Ah!” Zhou Botong exclaimed, “The Western Poison blows his horn really loud! If you can prove your great prowess and really kill the sharks, the Old Urchin will kowtow to you and will call you ‘Grandfather’ three hundred times.”

“I do not dare to accept that,” Ouyang Feng said, “If you don’t believe me, why don’t we make a bet?” “All right,” Zhou Botong almost shouted, “I’ll bet you my head!”

Hong Qigong, on the other hand, was suspicious, “Even if his skills are as high as the sky, it is impossible to kill millions of sharks at once,” he thought, “I am afraid he has another evil scheme up in his sleeve.”

“I don’t need your head,” Ouyang Feng said with a smile, “If I win, I want you to do something for me and you must comply with it. If I lose, I won’t decline whatever difficult matter you want me to do. What do you think?”

“I don’t care, whatever you say!” Zhou Botong shouted.

Ouyang Feng turned to Hong Qigong, “I am asking Brother Qi to be our witness,” he said.

Hong Qigong nodded, “Very well,” he said, “But what if the winner assigns the loser something and he is not able to do it?” “Then the loser must jump into the sea to be eaten by the sharks,” Zhou Botong said.

Again Ouyang Feng showed a faint smile but he did not say anything. He signaled a servant to bring a small wine cup. Two of his right fingers pinched the neck of the strange looking snake on his staff, forced it to open its mouth and venom gushed from its teeth. Ouyang Feng held out the wine cup and caught the venom in it, black and thick like China ink, almost filling half the cup. As soon as this snake ran out of venom, he pinched the other one and did the same, filling the whole cup with snake’s venom. When he was finished the two snakes wrapped around the staff quietly, no longer slithering up and down, like they were very tired.

Ouyang Feng’s servant hooked another big shark and placed it on the deck. With his left hand Ouyang Feng gripped the shark’s upper jaw, while his right foot stepped on the lower jaw, prying the jaws open. That shark was about two zhang’s long [approximately 20 feet or 7 meters], but it could not prevent its mouth being opened revealing two rows of dagger-sharp teeth. Then he poured the cup of venom into the shark’s mouth, right where the gaping wound caused by the iron hook was. With an abrupt movement his left hand lifted the shark by its belly and without much trouble swung it up. The 200 catty [about 100 kg / 220lbs] shark flew into the air and with a loud splash fell into the sea.

Zhou Botong laughed, “Aha! I understand now,” he said, “This is the old monk’s method of killing bedbugs.” “Big Brother,” Guo Jing asked, “How did the old monk kill the bugs?”

“There was once an old monk who hawked concoctions for getting rid of bedbugs in a Bianliang [a city in Henan province] street market,” Zhou Botong told him, “He claimed his concoction to be very effective; once the bugs ate his product they would surely die. If not, he was willing to reimburse the customer’s money tenfold. Of course with this kind of guarantee his business was brisk. One of his customers went back home and scattered the concoction on his bed. Heh, heh … that night the bedbugs still came by the thousands, biting him half to death. That customer was upset and early the next morning he went back to the market to find that old monk, wanting him to refund his money. That old monk said, ‘My concoction is very effective; if it did not kill your bugs, perhaps you did not use it correctly.’ The customer asked, ‘How do you use it?’” Reaching this point Zhou shook his head with a mischievous smile on his face, but did not continue.

“Then how do you use it?” Guo Jing asked.

With a straight face Zhou Botong said, “That old monk said, ‘You catch the bug, pry open its mouth and feed just a little bit of this concoction to it. If it doesn’t die, then you can come to the old monk again.’ The customer was mad, he said, ‘If I can catch the bug, I can crush it to death with my fingers, why would I need your effective concoction?’ To which the old monk replied, ‘Of course, I never said you can’t crush it to death, did I?’”

Guo Jing, Hong Qigong, Ouyang Feng and his nephew, along with everyone who listened to Zhou Botong, burst into laugher. “My concoction is somewhat different than that of the old monk,” Ouyang Feng said with a smile.

“I don’t see much difference,” Zhou Botong said.

Ouyang Feng pointed his finger to the sea and said, “Well, just take a look.”

The shark fed the venom went belly up, and of course seven or eight other sharks were having a feeding frenzy over it. The strange thing was that the seven or eight sharks which ate their comrade’s flesh were also belly up not too long afterwards. Each dead shark was immediately eaten by another group of sharks, which, in turn, also went belly up in the water. One shark killed ten others, ten sharks killed a hundred, a hundred killed a thousand; in not too long the sea was full of floating dead sharks. The remaining sharks were not too many, but they were still feeding on their dead comrades. A while later the sea became calm, there were no more sharks left alive. When Hong Qigong, Zhou Botong and Guo Jing saw this chilling scene their faces paled. Hong Qigong sighed and said, “Old Poison, Old Poison…your evil plan was truly evil; only a small amount of poison from your two snakes is extremely deadly.”

Ouyang Feng chuckled and looked at Zhou Botong with a smug expression. Zhou Botong wrung his hands, stomped his foot, and pulled his beard and hair erratically. As far as anyone could see, the sea’s surface was full of dead sharks with their white bellies upward, floating and bobbing on the waves.

“Looking at so many white bellies makes my tummy sick; thinking about that many sharks being killed by the Old Poison’s venom, also makes my tummy sick,” Zhou Botong said, “Old Poison, you need to watch out; once the ‘Dragon King of the Sea’ [hai long wang] finds out, he is going to send his shrimp army and crab generals to deal with you.” Ouyang Feng simply smiled without saying anything.

“Brother Feng, little brother is unclear about something and I beg you to explain it to me,” Hong Qigong said. “I don’t dare,” Ouyang Feng replied.

“It was only a small cup of venom; even if the poison was extremely deadly, how could it kill thousands of sharks?” Hong Qigong asked.

Ouyang Feng laughed, “This type of venom is very special,” he explained, “As soon as it enters the blood the blood became poisonous. If this blood enters another shark’s system, that second shark’s blood will also be poisonous. Just imagine the amount of venom increasing a hundredfold. Each dead shark would multiply that amount another hundredfold; very soon you’ll have an infinite amount of venom able to kill forever.”

“That is called perpetual killing,” Hong Qigong commented.

“Exactly,” Ouyang Feng replied. “Little brother’s title is ‘Western Poison’; if my skill in using poison is somewhat lacking, then I’m afraid I’m not worthy to hold that title.”

While they were still talking the remaining sharks had already died. The other smaller fish were also gone; though not being eaten by the sharks, they still had disappeared so the sea was eerily calm.

“Sail away quickly…sail away quickly! The air here is too thick with poison,” Hong Qigong urged.

Ouyang Feng gave a signal and the boat moved away at full speed; all the triangle shaped sails were raised. With the wind coming from the south they headed northwest.

“The Old Poison really sells effective concoctions to get rid of bedbugs,” Zhou Botong said. “What do you want me to do?” “I’d like to welcome the three of you into my cabin first,” Ouyang Feng said, “You need to change into dry clothes, eat something, and then take a rest. About the bet, it won’t be too late to talk about later.”

Zhou Botong was really impatient, “That won’t do, that won’t do!” he called out, “Just say it! You won’t gain anything by waiting. If the Old Urchin dies of suffocation, then it will be your loss for not telling me what you want.”

Ouyang Feng smiled, “In that case, Brother Botong, please come with me.”