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The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Chapter 21

Chapter 21 – The Thousand-catty Rock

Ouyang Feng felt his surroundings becoming hotter and the deck of the boat was shaking violently; he knew the boat would sink any moment. But Hong Qigong was attacking more furiously and did not slacken his pace; if he did not use his special skills now, he might not get out of this contest alive. He pulled back his Snake Rod with his right hand and kicked out viciously with his right leg.

Hong Qigong used his bamboo rod to chase the Snake Rod while using his left hand to block the incoming kick. Ouyang Feng suddenly twisted his arms and punched towards Hong Qigong’s ‘Right Sun’ Acupoint. This ‘Spirit Snake Fist’ was developed by Ouyang Feng’s own harsh training and was meant for use during the second Mount Hua Tournament. He had not yet used this snake-like boxing skill even after exchanging a thousand strokes with Hong Qigong on Peach Blossom Island.

A snake seems to be boneless and can turn in all directions at will, so the main point of this boxing skill is to be able to twist the arms unpredictably, so that when the opponent blocks the fists, the attacker would be able to throw a punch from an unexpected angle at close proximity. Of course to expect the arms to move exactly like a snake would be unreasonable but to the eyes of the opponent, the movements of the arms greatly resemble the movements of snakes.

With Ouyang Feng executing such a strange move at this critical moment, Hong Qigong should have found it hard to counter, and even if he wasn’t injured, he would still be in danger. However Ouyang Ke had already used the move against Guo Jing, and although he won, he actually gave Hong Qigong a chance to spot a flaw in the move.

That day he did not attend the feast with Li Sheng and the group of beggars but instead thought deeply on how to counter the move. Now that Ouyang Feng finally used this move, he inwardly rejoiced; he extended his fingers to form a claw and caught hold of his fist. His response was perfect and he managed to swiftly and accurately counter this special move of the ‘Spirit Snake Fist’.

It looked like it happened by chance, but in reality Hong Qigong had pondered over it for many days and nights and followed it with long hours of practice which finally allowed him to deal with the entire ‘Spirit Snake Fist’ move. Although it had not been perfected yet, it had the element of surprise and managed to catch Ouyang Feng off guard.

Ouyang Feng had expected Hong Qigong to be greatly surprised and be rendered helpless, allowing him to seize the opportunity and move in for the kill. Unexpectedly it was he who ended up surprised and forced to retreat several steps. Suddenly a mass of fire descended upon him, immediately covering his body. Hong Qigong was also startled; he leapt back and saw that it was actually a large sail which had caught fire and fallen.

Normally with Ouyang Feng’s level of martial arts, even had that sail fallen several times faster, it would not have hit him. But he had just seen the ‘Spirit Snake Fist’, which he painstakingly created over many years, unexpectedly and casually neutralized; he was stunned and he did not even attempt to evade the burning sail. The sail, along with the mast, weighed several hundred jin and Ouyang Feng was not able to lift the sail even after jumping twice. Although he was in great danger, he was still calm; he tried to raise the Snake Rod to lift the sail, but the Snake Rod was pinned under the mast and could not be lifted. In his heart he sighed, "Forget it! I’ll return to heaven today!" Suddenly he felt the weight lifting and his head was no longer covered by the sail. He saw that Hong Qigong had raised the anchor, hooked it onto the sail and pulled the sail away. Hong Qigong did not want to see him being burned alive so he went to save him.

By now Ouyang Feng’s clothes and brows were on fire and he immediately rolled on the deck of the boat frantically attempting to put out the fire. Unfortunately bad things do not come singly and the boat suddenly lurched to one side, causing a huge chain to sweep right into him.

Hong Qigong shouted, “Ah!” and dashed forward to grab the chain. The chain had been heated by the fire and caused a sizzling sound when it came into contact with his hand, burning his palm. He quickly let it go as he threw it into the sea. He was just about to jump from the boat when he felt a slight numbness in his back. He stopped for a second and a thought flashed through his mind, “I saved West Poison’s life, can it be possible that he’s using his snake to poison me?” He turned around and saw that it was indeed a snake and it had fresh blood in its mouth. Enraged, he threw two palms towards Ouyang Feng. Ouyang Feng casually stepped aside and Hong Qigong’s palms hit a mast, splitting it in two.

Ouyang Feng was happy that his sneak attack worked but when he saw Hong Qigong lashing out crazily he became more serious and did not dare take the blows head-on, avoiding them instead. Guo Jing shouted, “Master! Climb aboard the small boat.” Hong Qigong suddenly felt dizzy and staggered.

Ouyang Feng charged forward and struck out with his palms which landed on Hong Qigong’s back. Ouyang Feng’s lethal snake poison was unmatched, but fortunately he already used up most of the poison when he made the bet with Zhou Botong days ago, so today the poison was not as lethal. When Hong Qigong was bitten, he was not severely poisoned and because of his high internal energy, the poison took some time to take effect. When he was hit by Ouyang Feng he was in a daze and he did not circulate his qi to protect himself. The blow caused him to throw up blood and collapse.

Since Hong Qigong was very highly-skilled, Ouyang Feng knew that this blow would not kill him; when he recovered some time later, Ouyang Feng would be in trouble. He jumped over and raised his foot to strike his chest. Guo Jing had just climbed aboard from the small boat and saw that the situation was very urgent and he might not be able to save Hong Qigong in time. So he struck out with both palms using the ‘Twin Dragons Fetch Water’ stance to attack Ouyang Feng’s waist.

Although Ouyang Feng knew his martial arts were not weak, he did not think very highly of him and used his left hand to block the strike while his right foot slammed down. Guo Jing was shocked and did not care about his own safety; he jumped forward to clutch Ouyang Feng’s head. By doing this he left his acupoints exposed and his side was swept at by Ouyang Feng.

Although this counterattack was not very forceful, every one of his strikes was enough to kill his opponent. If not for Guo Jing’s good internal strength, he would have suffered serious injuries. He felt a sharp pain followed by numbness in half his body, but he continued to cling tenaciously to Ouyang Feng’s head.

Ouyang Feng assumed that with his vicious strike, his opponent would retreat, but he did not expect the dumb kid to use a move that could get both of them injured. He had to retract the foot which was halfway to Hong Qigong in order to twist his body around to attack Guo Jing. In such close proximity, he could not execute any of his refined ‘Snake’ moves.

Whenever highly-skilled martial artists fight, they will not allow their opponent to get close to them even if they were targeting acupoints. There was hardly any close-contact grappling involved. When it came to advanced martial arts, there were no moves for scuffling.

Ouyang Feng felt his throat being gripped forcefully by Guo Jing and he struck out backwards, but Guo Jing managed to avoid the blows. It was becoming harder for him to breathe and he felt the grip was becoming tighter, so he jabbed his elbow backwards. Guo Jing evaded to the right and had to let go with his left hand, but at the same time used his legs to execute a Mongolian wrestling technique while his left hand slipped past Ouyang Feng’s shoulder.

He slammed down forcefully on Ouyang Feng’s back, causing Ouyang Feng to suffer intense pain even with his high level martial arts. This technique was called the ‘Camel’s Pull’, and it was so effective that only a wrestling expert could deal with it. Ouyang Feng did not know wrestling, so he suffered the full extent of the strike.

Guo Jing was happy and his right hand released its grip and slipped upwards behind Ouyang Feng’s back. With a loud yell he pressed both palms down. In Mongolian wrestling this move was called the ‘Mountain Breaking Move’ and was used when the opponent had fallen, so that no matter how strong his shoulders were or how good his wrestling techniques were, there would be nothing much he could do as his shoulder would break if he tried to move.

However Ouyang Feng’s martial arts were much better than the Mongolian wrestlers, so even with such a disadvantage he still managed to think of a way to turn defeat into victory. When Guo Jing’s hands came down, he used his qinggong [lightness kungfu] to duck aside and rolled away under Guo Jing’s waist.

With his status as a highly skilled martial arts master, rolling under a junior’s waist was a great disgrace, but that did not bother him. He broke free from the ‘Mountain Breaking Move’ and immediately threw his fists at Guo Jing’s back to counterattack. He did not expect that before his fists reached Guo Jing, his left leg was immobilized. Guo Jing knew he was no match for his opponent, but in a close-combat situation and with his wrestling background, coupled with the fact that he had no regard for his own safety, Ouyang Feng could not get closer to his master to injure him further. At this point the fire became fiercer and the planks twisted, causing them to lose their balance, fall and their clothes to catch fire.

Huang Rong was worried sick and anxious as she saw Hong Qigong’s motionless body slumped at the side of the boat; she could not tell if he was dead or alive. Meanwhile Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng were still rolling and struggling without showing any signs of stopping. Their clothes were on fire and the situation was getting dangerous, so she lifted the oar and swung it at Ouyang Ke’s head. Although his right arm was broken, his martial arts were still good enough for him to evade the oar and stretch out his left hand to grab Huang Rong’s bracelet. Huang Rong stomped her feet fiercely and the small boat almost capsized. Ouyang Ke could not swim and he was about to fall overboard, so he had to let go of Huang Rong. When the boat stabilized, Huang Rong took the opportunity to jump into the sea.

She swam quickly towards the big boat. The boat was already half submerged and the deck was almost touching the water’s surface. Huang Rong climbed aboard to help Guo Jing and took out the ‘Emei Sting’ from her waist. [The Emei Sting is a spike-like weapon which is pointed on each end and has a finger-ring in the middle] Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng were locked in a bundle and rolling about. Ouyang Feng’s martial arts were better and he managed to pin Guo Jing beneath him, but Guo Jing tenaciously held on to his shoulders, preventing him from counterattacking. Huang Rong fought through the smoke, went up to Ouyang Feng, and pierced his back with the spike.

Ouyang Feng was struggling madly with Guo Jing, but when he felt the prick, he was surprised and twisted around forcefully, causing Guo Jing to land on top. Huang Rong now wanted to poke Ouyang Feng’s head with the spike, but Ouyang Feng’s agility allowed him to evade her attacks and she ended up jabbing the spike into the deck.

A gust of wind blew some thick black smoke her way causing her eyes to burn. Just as she was about to rub her eyes she suddenly felt a pain in her leg and fell. Ouyang Feng had kicked her. Huang Rong rolled over and jumped up, but her hair caught fire. She was about to attack him again when Guo Jing shouted, “Save Master first!” Huang Rong silently agreed and ran towards Hong Qigong, grabbed him and jumped into the sea, extinguishing the flames on her body.

Huang Rong placed Hong Qigong on her back, kicked her legs in the water, and swam to the small boat. Ouyang Ke stood at the side of the boat and raised the oar high, shouting, “Put the old beggar down; I’ll only let you alone board!” Huang Rong said, “Fine! Let’s meet in the water!” She shook the boat violently. The boat rocked and seemed about to capsize. Ouyang Ke became frantic and gripped the side of the boat tightly, saying, “Don’t… don’t shake it, the boat is going to overturn!”

Huang Rong laughed as she said, “Pull my master up quickly. And watch out…if you try any tricks, I’ll dump you in the water for six hours.” Ouyang Ke had no choice but to comply and took hold of Hong Qigong, pulling him onboard.

Huang Rong smiled and praised him, “Since I first met you, this is the first good deed you’ve done.” Ouyang Ke’s heart stirred and he wanted to speak, but could not open his mouth. Huang Rong was about to swim back to the large boat to help out in the fight when she suddenly heard a thunderous rumble – a huge wall of water loomed over her head.

She was shocked and quickly held her breath, waiting for the water to hit the boat, but when she looked again her jaw dropped. A whirlpool had formed on the surface of the sea and the burning boat had disappeared together with Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng.

At this moment, her mind went completely blank and she could not feel or think of anything. She’d become completely lost, not knowing where she was. Suddenly, salty water filled her mouth and she found herself sinking. She jerked and her senses awoke as she swam upwards. When she broke the surface, all she could see in any direction was the small boat; everything else had disappeared under the waves. Huang Rong dived under the water again and struggled to go deeper. Her swimming skills were fantastic and her strokes were powerful, but she could only swim along with the current. She covered the entire area searching for Guo Jing but he had disappeared without a trace. Even Ouyang Feng could not be found – it seemed they had gone down with the boat.

After some time, she was completely exhausted, but she refused to give up, and swam about wildly. She could only hope Heaven would be merciful and let her bump into Guo Jing, but she was surrounded by mountainous waves and there was no trace of him. She had been swimming for over an hour now and could not continue any longer, so she headed towards the small boat, intending to rest for a while before resuming the search.

Ouyang Ke pulled her up. He knew that his uncle was missing and was equally anxious, asking, “Have you seen my uncle?” Huang Rong was too exhausted and she suddenly saw everything go black as she fainted. After some time she slowly regained consciousness but felt like her body was afloat, as though she was floating among the clouds while the sounds of the winds and waves beat against her ears. She sat upright and realized that the boat was just following the currents.

By now they did not know how far they were from the sunken boat and Guo Jing could not be found. Huang Rong felt great sadness and fainted again. Ouyang Ke could only grip the sides of the small boat tightly as he feared that the next wave would send him tumbling out of the boat into the water.

After another hour, Huang Rong awoke again and thought that since her Jing ge ge was at the bottom of the sea, it was meaningless for her to live on. When she saw Ouyang Ke’s twitching eyes and his pale lips, she felt disgusted and thought, “How can I possibly die together with this beast?” She stood up and snapped, “Jump overboard!” Ouyang Ke was shocked and exclaimed, “What?” Huang Rong said, “You’re not jumping? Let me capsize the boat then we shall speak again.”

She jumped towards the right, causing a reaction which resulted in the boat springing to the left. She then jumped towards the left, and the boat rocked even more violently. When she heard Ouyang Ke’s frantic shouting, her sadness became joy and she jumped again.

Ouyang Ke knew that if she jumped a few more times, the boat would definitely capsize. When he saw her jump again, he quickly jumped to the other side. They landed exactly at the same time and their forces cancelled out, causing the boat to momentarily dip deeper into the water.

Huang Rong repeated this trick twice, but he managed to stop her. Huang Rong said, “Good! I’ll make a hole in the boat and see what you can do then.” She took out the steel spike and jumped to the middle of the boat, but then she saw Hong Qigong lying motionless in the bottom of the boat. She realized that she had completely forgotten about her master as she yearned for Guo Jing. She hurriedly bent down to place a finger by his nose and she felt his faint breathing. She was relieved and supported Hong Qigong in her arms. His eyes were tightly closed, his face was white as sheet, and his pulse was weak. Huang Rong became worried about her master and no longer worried about Ouyang Ke, so she loosened his shirt to check his injury.

Suddenly the boat trembled violently and Ouyang Ke shouted excitedly, “Land ahead…land ahead!” Huang Rong lifted her head and saw a dense cluster of trees in the distance. The boat had now stopped moving since it was grounded on a reef. They were still some distance from shore but they could see the sea bed; the depth was only waist-high. Ouyang Ke jumped into the water and ran a few steps forward before turning back to look at Huang Rong, then he headed back. Huang Rong saw that Hong Qigong’s shoulder had a black handprint which seemed to be quite deep and she could not help but think, “How could Western Poison’s palm strike be so powerful?”

Then she noticed two fine teeth marks on his shoulder. If she had not looked carefully, she would have missed them. She pressed them lightly with her fingers and suddenly felt a sharp pain in her hand, so she hastily withdrew them and asked, “Master! How are you now?” Hong Qigong moaned but did not answer her. Huang Rong said to Ouyang Ke, “Give me the medicine.”

Ouyang Ke threw up his hands impatiently and said, “The antidote is with my uncle.” Huang Rong said, “I don’t believe it.” Ouyang Ke said, “Search me.” He undid his outer gown and emptied his stuff onto his hand. Huang Rong saw that there was indeed no medicine and said, “Help me get Master ashore!”

Each took one of Hong Qigong’s arms and placed it over their shoulders. Huang Rong held Ouyang Ke’s hand, allowing Hong Qigong to sit on their forearms. Then they proceeded to the shore. Huang Rong felt her master shivering continuously and was extremely worried. Ouyang Ke, on the other hand, was rather pleased since he was only aware of the warm and smooth hand holding his, something he could only dream of before. Unfortunately for him, it was not long before they reached the shore.

Huang Rong crouched and lowered Hong Qigong to the ground and said, “Quick, get the boat ashore, don’t let the tide sweep it out to sea.” Ouyang Ke released her hand and stared blankly, only vaguely hearing Huang Rong’s voice but not paying attention to what she was saying. Luckily Huang Rong did not know what he was thinking and stared at him while repeating what she’d said. Ouyang Ke then dragged the boat ashore and saw that Huang Rong had rolled Hong Qigong over, letting him lie on the grass so that she could give him first aid. Then he thought, “Where on Earth are we?” He ran up a small hill, looked around, and could not help but be surprised and extremely pleased. In every direction was the vast sea; they were on a remote island. The island was filled with lush greenery but there were no signs of human life. He was surprised that there were no signs of food or accommodation; how would they survive? On the other hand, he was pleased because it seemed as though he was fated to be on this deserted island with that angel-like beauty. With the old beggar seriously injured, he would not bother them. He thought, “With her here, this god-forsaken island is like a paradise; even if I die, I will die happy.”

When he thought of this he unconsciously spread his arms, but suddenly felt a sharp pain in his right arm which reminded him that it was broken. He broke off two branches, tore a strip of cloth and tied his arm to the makeshift splint. Huang Rong was at that time trying to suck out the poison from her master’s back. She did not know how else she could help him so she let him lie down on a rock in a cave and shouted to Ouyang Ke, “Go look around and see if there’s an inn around here.”

Ouyang Ke laughed, “This is an island and there’s absolutely no inn here. Let’s see if we’re lucky enough to find anyone else here.” Huang Rong was slightly shocked and said, “You do that.” When Ouyang Ke heard her instructions he was very excited and utilized his qinggong running to the east; but all he saw were more trees and no traces of human beings. Along the way he killed two wild hares and then headed north before making his way back in a loop. He told Huang Rong, “It’s a deserted island.”

That night Huang Rong did not dare sleep for fear of Ouyang Ke attacking them and also because of her anxiety for Hong Qigong. It was only at dawn the following morning that she caught a few hours of sleep. In her sleep she dreamed that Hong Qigong called her several times and she was jolted awake and asked, “Master, how are you?” Hong Qigong pointed at his mouth and moved his jaws. Huang Rong laughed and took some of the unfinished rabbit meat from the previous night and fed him.

Once he’d consumed the meat, he felt the Qi stirring within him and he sat upright in order to breathe properly. Huang Rong did not dare utter a word and only scrutinized his expression. But she watched the reddish tint of his face turn pale, then red again. This cycle repeated several times and soon his head was emitting a steamy mist and sweat fell like rain as his body shivered violently. Suddenly there was the flicker of a shadow… Ouyang Ke was trying to come into the cave.

Huang Rong knew that her master was attempting to treat his own injuries, which was a life-and-death situation; if he forced his way in and distracted her master, nothing would save him. She softly snapped, “Get out now!” Ouyang Ke laughed, “Let’s discuss how we can survive on this deserted island. The days will get longer from now on, you know!” Hong Qigong blinked and asked, “Is this really a deserted island?” Huang Rong said, “Master, please concentrate, ignore him.” She turned to Ouyang Ke and said, “Come, let’s talk outside.” Ouyang Ke was elated and followed her out of the cave.

The weather was good this day, but Huang Rong only saw the edge of the vast sea meeting the sky; apart from a few clouds, there was nothing else. She walked to their landing site and was shocked, and asked, “Where’s the boat?” Ouyang Ke said, “Huh, where is it? It must have been swept away by the currents! Ah, damn it!”

Huang Rong saw his expression and deduced that it was he who pushed the boat out to sea so that she could not get away from here. She felt that this was absolutely despicable. Since Guo Jing’s apparent death, she had no intention of living. Besides, the small boat would not be able to make it through the fierce waves which made the situation bleak. In any case she would not be able to get her master to safety. She stared at Ouyang Ke without showing any change in expression. In her heart she was actually thinking of how she could kill him and save her master at the same time. Huang Rong jumped onto a large rock and looked into the distance. Ouyang Ke thought, “If I don’t use this chance to get close to her, then when can I?” He also leapt up on the rock and waited for her to sit down. After some time, when she did not appear angry and did not shift her position, he moved closer and said, “Little sister, the two of us can live here until we’re old and live like the deities. I must have done something wonderful in my past life to deserve this!” Huang Rong laughed and said, “This island only has the three of us, including Master, wouldn’t we be lonely?” Ouyang Ke thought her tone sounded harmless and was ecstatic, saying, “With me by your side, why would it be lonely? Moreover, when we have children in the future, it will be even less so.” Huang Rong laughed, “Who will have the children? I won’t.” Ouyang Ke laughed, “I’ll help you.” After saying that, he reached out his hand to take hold of hers. Then he felt warmth in his palm and realized that Huang Rong already held his hand. Ouyang Ke’s heart beat madly.

Huang Rong slowly moved her hand up his arm, then said in a low voice, “Sister Mu Nianci’s chastity was destroyed by you, was it not?” Ouyang Ke laughed as he said, “That girl did not want to submit to me. What kind of man would I be to force her?” Huang Rong said, “So, it must be others who slander her. Her lover had a big quarrel with her because of it.” Ouyang Ke said, “Her reputation suffered because of that, what a pity!”

Huang Rong suddenly pointed to the sea and shouted, “Ah, what is that!” Ouyang Ke looked in that direction and was about to ask where when he suddenly felt his wrist stiffen in her firm grip and his body went numb and he could not move. Huang Rong drew her spike and thrust it towards his abdomen. The distance between them was extremely small and Ouyang Ke was in a state of confusion, coupled with the fact that his arm was immobilized, how could he block it? But all of his training under expert guidance at White Camel Mountain had not been wasted; he suddenly twisted his body and in a split second used his chest to thrust towards Huang Rong’s back. Huang Rong evaded him and jumped off the rock, causing the spike to gash his leg and resulting in a deep wound that was almost a foot long.

Ouyang Ke jumped off too and saw her spike. He stood there and grinned, but then he felt terrible pain. He bent over and saw his gown stained with blood and realized that although he barely escaped with his life, he was severely injured. Huang Rong said, “We were talking nicely, so why did you try to bump into me for no reason? I can’t be bothered with you now.” Then she turned and left. Ouyang Ke was filled with love and hatred, shock and joy, as he stood there in silence. As Huang Rong walked back to the cave she blamed her poor skills for wasting such a good opportunity and letting him escape. When she went inside she saw Hong Qigong asleep and a pool of black blood on the cave floor. Startled, she asked, “Master, how are you? Are you better?” Hong Qigong said, “I want wine.” Huang Rong was distressed because she did not know where to find wine on this deserted island. Yet she agreed and said, “I’ll try to get some. Master, your injury isn’t serious, right?” Tears fell as she said that.

Despite having gone through so much, she had not cried. Now that the tears had started she could not control herself, so she buried her head on Hong Qigong’s chest and cried her heart out. Hong Qigong stroked her hair and patted her back, trying to console her. The old beggar had roamed Jianghu for many decades but had never had to deal with a crying girl before; he did not know what to do. He could only say, “Good girl, don’t cry, Master’s here for you. Please don’t cry. I don’t want the wine anymore.”

Huang Rong stopped crying after a while and lifted her head. When she saw that Hong Qigong’s clothes were wet with her tears, she smiled and said, “I didn’t manage to kill that evil jerk, what a pity!” She then told the whole story to him. Hong Qigong was silent for a moment before saying, “Master is useless now and that ‘jerk’ is better than you in martial arts. For now you can only pit your wits against him.” Huang Rong said, “Master, after resting a few days, you’ll recover and take his useless life with one palm, won’t that settle it?”

Hong Qigong regretfully said, “I’ve been poisoned by the poisonous snake as well as Western Poison’s deadly palm. I’ve already used all of my martial abilities to purge the poison but there is some left within me. Even if I survive, my martial arts will be affected. Your master is just another old man without any powerful skills.” Huang Rong quickly said, “No, no, Master, you aren’t, you aren’t!” Hong Qigong said, “I, the old beggar, have never taken things seriously, but now it has come to this and I can’t deny it.”

He paused, and then gravely said, “Child, Master has no choice but to request a huge favour from you… it’s extremely difficult to accomplish… will you accept?” Huang Rong quickly said, “Yes, yes! Master, tell me.” He sighed, and then said, “Our time together as master and disciple has not been long and I didn’t get to teach you very much martial arts. Now that you’re facing a strong opponent, I have no choice but to thrust a great burden on you, or I will not be at ease.”

Huang Rong knew that he was usually carefree and easygoing; but now he was so hesitant that she knew it must be some extremely important responsibility. She said, “Master, please tell me. Your injuries were caused by you trying to help your disciple escape from Peach Blossom Island. Even if I die a horrible death, I can hardly repay you. I’m just afraid I’m too young to carry out your instructions.” Hong Qigong happily said, “So you agree to it?” Huang Rong said, “Yes. Please say it.”

Hong Qigong stood up unsteadily, cupped his hands, and bowing to the north said, “Ancestors, the Beggar Clan you founded passed to my hands. I am now unfortunately incapable of bringing virtue to our clan. Today the matter is urgent and I have to pass on my responsibilities. May the Ancestors in Heaven bless us, help this child avoid trouble and bring our clan to greater heights.” When he finished, he bowed to the north once more. Huang Rong was both shocked and curious when he said that.

Hong Qigong said, “Child, kneel down.” Huang Rong knelt down and Hong Qigong took his green bamboo stick and raised it over his head. He saluted it and placed it in her hands. Huang Rong was extremely shocked and said, “Master, you want me to be the Beggar Clan… the Beggar Clans’…” Hong Qigong said, “Exactly. I am the eighteenth generation Leader of the Beggar Clan, and now you are the nineteenth Leader. Now let’s thank our ancestors.”

At this stage Huang Rong did not dare to disobey and could only imitate Hong Qigong’s actions and bowed with both hands cupped. Hong Qigong suddenly coughed and spat out some phlegm which landed on Huang Rong’s clothing. Huang Rong was secretly sad and thought, “Master’s injuries are indeed serious… he doesn’t even have the strength to spit properly.” However she pretended that nothing was amiss. He sighed, “When the Beggars pay their respects to you in future, there will be a disgusting ritual. Ah, this will be hard on you.”

Huang Rong smiled, thinking, “The beggars are filthy and rough, how could any of that be unexpected?” Hong Qigong drew a deep breath. His face was pale but in his heart it felt as though he had just put down a large rock and he was very pleased. Huang Rong helped him lie down. He said, “Now that you’re the Leader, I am an Elder in the Clan. Although the Elders are respected by the Leader, when there’s something to be done the Leader has to give the order. This rule was laid down by our founders, so you must follow it to the letter. When the Leader issues an order, all the beggars must obey it.”

Huang Rong became depressed and worried, thinking, “We’re on this deserted island and I don’t know how we can return to the Central Plains. Moreover Jing ge ge is dead and I have no desire to live. Now Master suddenly wants me to be some so-called Clan Leader and command all the beggars under the sky; how on Earth am I going to do that?” But when she saw her master’s condition, she did not want to worry him further and could only agree to anything he proposed.

Hong Qigong said, “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month of this year, the four Elders of our Clan will hold a gathering at the lakeside Cave- Courtyard in Yueyang City and hear my announcement of the new Leader. You only need to take the bamboo rod there and they will understand my intentions. Every matter within the Clan will be dealt with by the four Elders, so I can leave it to them. But I have to send you, such an adorable child, into the midst of the filthy beggars; this will be really hard on you.”

Then he laughed heartily, but because of his injury he began to cough before he finished laughing. Huang Rong massaged his back for a while until he stopped coughing. Hong Qigong sighed, “This old beggar is really useless now, ah, I don’t know when I’ll recover. I have to rush into teaching you the ‘Dog Beating Skill’.” Huang Rong was wondering why this stick skill had such a horrible name. She thought that no matter how fierce a dog might be, she could kill it with one punch. She saw no need to learn this skill, but her master was deadly serious, so she could only agree. Hong Qigong said, “Although you are now the Clan Leader, you don’t have to change your personality; if you want to be playful and mischievous, go ahead and be so. We beggars have no restrictions and we do as we please. If we worried that ‘this won’t do and that won’t do’, we might as well be judges or ministers. If you do not think highly of the ‘Dog Beating Skill’, simply say so!”

Huang Rong laughed, “Disciple is wondering what kind of dog could be so tenacious that it requires a specialized skill to handle it.” Hong Qigong said, “Now that you’re the head of all the beggars, you’ll have to act like one. With your rich dress and your rich girl’s attitude, the dog would be only too pleased to listen to you; why would you need to hit it? But if we beggars run into such dogs it’s a different story. The old saying goes: ‘the poor not armed with sticks get bullied by dogs’. You have never been poor so you don’t know what it’s like to be one of them.”

Huang Rong clapped and laughed, “Master, you’re wrong there!” Hong Qigong was perplexed and asked, “Why?” Huang Rong said, “On the third month of this year, I escaped from Peach Blossom Island to play around, and I disguised myself as a beggar. Whenever there were fierce dogs bothering me, all I had to do is give them a kick and they would scramble away.” Hong Qigong said, “Yup, but if the dog is too fierce then you’d have to use a stick to hit it.”

Huang Rong thought, “What dog could be so fierce?” Then she realized what he meant and shouted, “Oh yeah, bad guys are dogs too!” Hong Qigong smiled and said, “You’re really clever. If…” He wanted to say that Guo Jing would not have known it, but his heart turned sour and he stopped.

When Huang Rong heard him stop in mid-sentence, she understood what he was thinking, felt bitterness in her heart and wanted to cry; but now that Hong Qigong needed her help she seemed all grown-up while Hong Qigong seemed like a youth, so she controlled herself and only turned her head away. The tears, however, fell like pearls. Hong Qigong was as sad as her and he knew that consoling her was useless, so he talked about serious matters, saying, “The thirty-six moves of the ‘Dog Beating Skill’ was created by our Ancestors and can only be passed down from one Clan Leader to the next without letting anyone else know about the skill. Our Clan’s third Leader far surpassed previous Leaders and he greatly improved this skill. After hundreds of years, when our Clan faces any strong opposition, our Leader would personally come forward and use this skill to defeat our enemies.”

Huang Rong began to pay attention and then sighed softly, asking, “Master, when you were fighting with Western Poison on the boat, why didn’t you use it?” Hong Qigong said, “This skill is very important to our clan, so even though I didn’t use it, he may not have won. Who’d know he could be so despicable as to poison me after I saved his life?” Huang Rong saw that he was becoming depressed, so she tried to distract him and said, “Master, please teach me so that I can kill him to avenge you.”

With a stony-faced laugh Hong Qigong picked up a piece of firewood and leaned against the cave wall. He recited the formula and executed the steps, thus passing on all thirty-six moves to her. He knew Huang Rong was extremely intelligent but was afraid that he would not live long, so he passed everything on to her in one shot. Although the name ‘Dog Beating Skill’ was crude, the changes within were subtle and the techniques profound; it was one of the best martial arts skills ever created. It was therefore the reason that this skill was passed down like a precious heirloom.

Although Huang Rong was very clever, she could only remember the general skills and forgot some of the finer details. How could she understand it in such a short time? After he was done, a sweating Hong Qigong took a deep breath and said, “I didn’t teach it well, but… that’s all I can do for now.” With a groan he collapsed and fainted. Huang Rong was shocked and shouted, “Master…master!” She hurriedly supported him but noticed his limbs were cold and his breathing was weak; he seemed almost beyond hope. Huang Rong had been severely tried for the past few days but now she could not cry. She listened to his heart beat and found it barely audible so she quickly massaged his chest to aid his breathing. Just at this critical moment she heard noises behind her and a hand reached out to take her wrist. She was concentrating fully on saving her master and did not even notice when Ouyang Ke entered the cave. Now she ignored the fact that the person behind her was a vicious wolf and quietly said, “Master may not make it; think of something to save him.”

When Ouyang Ke heard her plead so sincerely, saw the tears welling up in her eyes and her face looking pitiful, his heart quivered. When he bent down to look at Hong Qigong, he saw that his face was white as sheet and his eyes were rolled up; he felt happier. The distance between Huang Rong and himself was less than half a zhang and he could even feel her breathing and smell her fragrance. A few strands of hair caressed her face and his heart thumped madly until he could no longer restrain himself and he grabbed her by her waist.

Huang Rong was taken aback, struck out with force and took the chance to jump away when he evaded her blow. Ouyang Ke had been afraid of Hong Qigong so he did not dare be disrespectful to Huang Rong; now he saw that Hong Qigong was half dead, so he did not worry any longer and laughed, “Good girl, I normally don’t bother about other girls, but for a beauty such as yourself, I’ll make an exception; come kiss me.”

Then he moved menacingly towards her. Huang Rong was frightened out of her wits and thought, “This is a terrible situation. Looks like I’ll be killed here, with some indignities.” She took out her needles. Ouyang Ke smiled, used his outer gown as a weapon and even advanced another two steps. Huang Rong waited for him to advance another step before crouching low and dodging to the left.

Ouyang Ke followed her and Huang Rong waved her hand. He waved his long sleeve and blocked the spike. Huang Rong knew that she was like an arrow away from the bow and anxiously tried to run out of the cave. Ouyang Ke was faster. Huang Rong heard the wind behind her back and knew he was attacking her. She was wearing the soft armour so she was not afraid of that and furthermore she was prepared to die, but she wanted to injure him first, so she did not defend herself and even sent a strike towards his chest.

Ouyang Ke did not intend to injure her and his strike was only meant to tire her out, so he quickly struck towards her wrist, neutralizing her move. At the same time, he jumped to the cave entrance, effectively trapping her inside. But the entrance was narrow and he could barely turn around, so with Huang Rong’s fierce onslaught coupled with her indifference to defense, her power seemed to have increased tremendously. Although Ouyang Ke was better than her, he did not want to injure her, so he was at a disadvantage.

In a brief moment they had exchanged fifty or sixty moves and Huang Rong was in danger. Her martial arts had been taught to her by her father while Ouyang Ke’s were taught by his uncle. Huang Yaoshi’s and Ouyang Feng’s martial arts were about the same level, but Huang Rong was only around fifteen while Ouyang Ke was almost thirty, so the difference in their martial arts was almost twenty years’ worth of training. Moreover Huang Rong was not as hard working as Ouyang Ke and although she learned some skills from Hong Qigong, she’d hardly practiced them. At this time, even with Ouyang Ke’s injuries, she was still unable to gain an advantage.

Suddenly Huang Rong launched herself forward and sent her spike towards him with a backstroke. Ouyang Ke blocked it and Huang Rong followed up closely with a fierce stab towards his right shoulder. His right arm was broken and in a splint so he could not exert any strength there. He tried to use his left hand to intercept that move, but the spike made a semi-circle, changed directions midway, and stabbed into his right shoulder. Huang Rong was elated, only to feel her hand suddenly go numb and had to drop the spike because her wrist’s acupoint had been hit.

Ouyang Ke was swift and agile; seeing that she was about to escape, he hit her ‘Xuan Zhong’ and ‘Zhong Tou’ acupoints consecutively with his legs. Huang Rong was in midair when she was struck and she fell towards the ground. Ouyang Ke moved forward and threw his outer gown on the ground, laughing, “Ah, don’t hurt yourself.” Huang Rong spun the spike around and tried to jump up but her legs were numb and she only managed to get a foot off the ground before falling again.

Ouyang Ke came to help her up. Huang Rong used her only non- immobilized arm and punched him. But in the confusion, her punch lacked strength and Ouyang Ke laughed as he sealed her last acupoint. This time Huang Rong was totally immobilized and she inwardly regretted, “Why did I did not stab myself just now? Now I can’t even beg for death.” She was on fire inside and everything went dark as she fainted. Ouyang Ke smoothly consoled her, saying, “Don’t be afraid!” He stretched his arm out to hug her. Suddenly he heard a cold voice above his head, saying, “Do you wish to live or die?”

Ouyang Ke was shocked, twisted his head around and saw Hong Qigong standing at the entrance looking at him with a side ways glance from his eyes. He once heard his uncle mention the incident where Wang Chongyang jumped out of his coffin and nearly killed him, so he immediately thought, “The old beggar pretended to be dead and now I’m dead!” He’d tasted Hong Qigong’s skills before and knew he did not even come close, so in shock he knelt down and said, “I was just playing with Miss Huang. Uncle Hong, please don’t be angry.”

Hong Qigong spat and shouted, “Scoundrel, aren’t you going to unseal her acupoints or do you need me to do it?” Ouyang Ke agreed repeatedly and hurriedly unblocked her acupoints. Hong Qigong said coldly, “Enter the cave again and I’ll show no mercy. Scram!” Ouyang Ke darted out like a rabbit.

Huang Rong awoke as though from a dream. Hong Qigong could not hold on any longer and collapsed. Huang Rong was shocked and agitated and quickly held him up. She noticed his mouth filled with blood and three teeth fell out. Huang Rong was very sad as she thought, “Even with Master’s wonderful abilities, such a fall actually broke his teeth.”

Hong Qigong took his teeth and laughed, “Teeth ah teeth, you don’t want to savor exquisite food with me anymore. I never expected you to leave before I did!” He was actually in very bad shape from the snake poison in his body and a palm strike by Ouyang Feng which almost shattered his spine. Because of his high skills, he was fortunately spared from death, but he was as weak as someone without martial arts.

When Huang Rong’s acupoints were blocked, Hong Qigong actually did not have the strength to unblock them for her and had to use his reputation to frighten Ouyang Ke into doing it for him. He saw Huang Rong’s grave expression and said, “Don’t worry. With this old beggar around, he wouldn’t dare to disturb you.” Huang Rong asked, “When I’m inside the cave that creep won’t show up, but what about food?” Though resourceful, she was flustered now and could not think straight.

Hong Qigong asked, “You’re thinking of ways to obtain food right?” Huang Rong nodded. Hong Qigong said, “Help me down to the beach to view the sun.” Huang Rong complied immediately and said, “OK! Let’s go fishing.” She let him lean on her shoulder and they walked slowly to the beach.

The weather was good on this day and the sea seemed endless, moving gently in the sea breeze. As the sun shone on her, their spirits were lifted. Ouyang Ke was also standing on the beach, but when he saw them coming, he immediately retreated several zhang, then stopped to watch them because they did not chase him.

They both worried, “This slimy creature is really hard to shake off; he may discover our weakness sooner or later.” But right now they could not care too much. Hong Qigong sat on a rock while Huang Rong broke off a tree branch to use as a fishing rod. The fish population thrived around this island because no one molested them, so within a short time she caught three big fish.

Huang Rong used the same method she used to cook chicken to cook the fish and they ate their fill. After resting for a while, Hong Qigong asked Huang Rong to display the moves of the ‘Dog Beating Skill’ and gave some pointers along the way. Huang Rong then understood more of the finer profound changes of the skill. By the time evening came, she had practiced until she was very hot, so she removed her outer coat and jumped into the sea to bathe. Suddenly she had a thought, “I’ve heard that the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the sea has a very beautiful Dragon Princess; I wonder if Jing ge ge has gone to the Dragon Palace?”

As she dreamily kicked in the water she felt a sharp pain in her foot and quickly retracted it; but felt as though it was being grabbed by something and she could not get free. She’d played in the sea since young and was not afraid of large clams; she was about to reach out her hand to catch it and got a shock instead. The clam was almost as big as a table; it was larger than any clam she had seen at Peach Blossom Island. She stretched out both hands to pry it open.

The clam was incredibly strong and even with both hands she could not force it open. The clam gripped her even tighter and her leg felt even more painful. Huang Rong smacked through the water, hoping to yank it out of the bottom but she had not expected it to feel like it weighed around two or three hundred jin. The clam had been living on the seabed for many years and had become part of the reef, how could it be easy to move it?

Huang Rong struggled a while more but felt her foot become even more painful; she was worried and gulped down two mouthfuls of water and thought, “Although I have no wish to live, I cannot leave Master alone here to be bullied by that scoundrel, I wouldn’t die in peace.” She quickly grabbed a large stone and smashed it on the clam, but because its shell was tough and she could not exert much strength through the water, even though she hit it repeatedly, it did not budge.

As the clam was attacked it tightened its grip further and Huang Rong swallowed water again; then she suddenly thought of something and quickly put the stone down, grabbed a handful of sand, and threw it into the open clam. The clam was indeed irritated by the sand and hurriedly opened up, wanting to expel the sand. As soon as her leg was free, she wasted no time swimming to the surface and sucked in some fresh air.

Hong Qigong noticed that she was submerged for such a long time and became worried since he knew she must have met some trouble in the water. Wanting to help her, he anxiously splashed around in the water for a brief moment before he saw Huang Rong surface and hailed her in his excitement. Huang Rong waved to her master and decided to dive again. This time she was prepared and dived some distance away from the giant clam and shook it, then used the reef as a pivot to lift it up. She dragged the clam back to the shore. When the clam left the water, it lost its buoyancy and became as heavy as a large rock. Huang Rong could not move it further. Then she grabbed a large stone and struck the clam to vent her anger. When she saw the deep wound the clam had inflicted on her, she thought of her close brush with death and stopped hitting it.

On this night the two of them made the clam into a good meal and they thought that it tasted really good. The next day when Hong Qigong awoke, he felt that the great pain in his body was less intense. His stomach felt really comfortable and he contentedly sighed.

Hong Qigong said, “After sleeping for a night, my injury seemed to have improved by quite a bit.” Huang Rong was elated and exclaimed, “It must be the clam meat which helped you.” Hong Qigong laughed, “The clam meat didn’t help much, but because the food was delicious, it satisfied my mouth. After that my recovery follows automatically by a small amount.”

Huang Rong giggled and rushed out to the beach to find the remains of the clam meat. In her eagerness, she forgot about Ouyang Ke. Just as she cut off two slices of meat, she suddenly saw a figure that was moving closer to her. Huang Rong bent over and grabbed part of the clam’s shell, threw it and jumped away at the same time, reaching the shoreline.

After observing Hong Qigong from a distance for a day, Ouyang Ke was becoming more suspicious since he could hardly walk, but he did not dare go into the cave. Now he forced himself forward and said, “Sister, don’t go, I want to talk to you.” Huang Rong said, “I’m ignoring you, yet you disregard that…you’re really shameless.” She then made a face at him.

Ouyang Ke watched her childish behavior which caused his face to lose color and his heart to itch; he advanced two steps and laughed, “It’s your fault; it’s because you’re so beautiful that people can’t ignore you.” Huang Rong laughed, “I said I’m ignoring you and I mean it. It’s useless to sweet- talk me.” Ouyang Ke advanced yet another step and said, “I don’t believe you.”

Huang Rong’s face became a shade darker and she said, “Move another step forward and I’ll ask Master to club you.” Ouyang Ke said, “Forget it…can he even walk? I’ll go in and carry him out, OK?” Huang Rong felt a jolt inside and retreated two steps. Ouyang Ke grinned, “If you’d like to jump into the sea then go ahead. I’ll wait here for you and we’ll see who can last the longest.”

Huang Rong said, “Fine, you’re bullying me, so I’ll ignore you forever.” She turned and ran, but tripped on a stone and fell down. Ouyang Ke sort of expected this so he laughed, “You’re really mischievous and naughty, but I love it.” He held his gown in his hand to catch any hidden needles she might throw and walked towards her. Huang Rong shouted, “Don’t come near!” She struggled to her feet but fell again after three steps.

This time her fall was more serious and half her body was in the sea; she seemed to have fainted. Ouyang Ke thought, “This girl is very crafty, I won’t fall for her tricks. With your skills, why did you fall for no apparent reason?” He stood there and observed her. After some time, he saw that she was still motionless and the tide was about to engulf her whole body.

Ouyang Ke became worried and thought, “This time she really has fainted; if I don’t save her she might drown.” He ran forward and tried to pull her legs. When he tugged her legs, he got a shock because her body was stiff, so he quickly lifted her up. Huang Rong suddenly hugged his legs and called out, “Go down!” Ouyang Ke could not stand and the two went into the water together.

In the water, despite his high skills, he could not use them and thought, “Even with precautions, I fell for her trick; this time my life is lost!” Huang Rong originally wanted to dunk his head in the water to appease her anger. However as Ouyang Ke felt the water fill his mouth, he could not feel where his body was and struggled wildly, wanting to grab onto Huang Rong.

However she had expected that and swam around him; how could he catch her? In the struggle, Ouyang Ke swallowed a few mouthfuls of water and his body sank deeper until his feet touched the seabed. Even though his martial arts were good and he was quick-thinking, he was at a great disadvantage in the water and could feel his body floating aimlessly. He hurriedly grabbed a rock on the seabed and used his internal energy to hold his breath while he looked around trying to find the direction to the shore. But the water was murky and he could not tell east from west, so he walked around for a few steps and decided that walking upwards was a good idea. He hit rock and took large steps towards the shallower area. With the reef on the seabed, movements were very difficult, so he used his internal energy to dash across in one go. When Huang Rong saw that he did not surface for some time, she quickly looked around and was surprised to see him walking in the water. She swam behind him and used her spike to thrust towards him.

Ouyang Ke felt the water flowing faster, so he quickly evaded and moved even faster. Now he really felt the lack of air in his lungs and let go of the large stone he was carrying trying to surface to breathe. When he stuck his head out, he saw that he was already close to shore. Huang Rong knew she could not stop him now so she sighed and dived again. Ouyang Ke did not die but crawled onto the beach completely drenched and his senses were dull. He threw up all the water he swallowed and felt his body go weak as if he suffered from some great illness. He was very angry and thought, “I’ll go kill that old beggar and see if that girl listens to me then!”

Although he had these thoughts, he was still wary of Hong Qigong and breathed deeply for a few moments to get rid of his fatigue. Then he broke off a tree branch as a makeshift weapon and ran towards the cave.

He avoided going in directly and tried to slip in from the side. He listened for a moment and did not pick up any movements in the room. He looked in and saw Hong Qigong sitting on the ground, meditating. His face showed no signs of any injury.

Ouyang Ke thought, “I’ll test him to see if he can move.” He said in a loud voice, “Uncle Hong, this is bad…this is bad!” Hong Qigong opened his eyes and asked, “What?” Ouyang Ke pretended to be in a state of panic and said, “Sister Huang tried to catch a rabbit but fell into a deep valley and is injured. She can’t climb out!”

Hong Qigong was shocked and said, “Then quickly save her!” Ouyang Ke was excited and thought, “If he can walk, why doesn’t he come out and save her?” He walked in and laughed, “She tried several ways and means to take my life, why should I help her? You go save her.”

Hong Qigong observed his expression, knew that he was lying, and thought, “This scum has discovered that I’ve lost my martial arts…I’m in danger!” In this situation, he could only try to bring him down as well; he secretly channeled all his strength to his arm, and waited for him to come closer before he struck. However when he did that, he felt a sharp pain near his heart and his body felt like it was about to come apart. When he saw Ouyang Ke’s twisted smile, he let out a long sigh and waited for death.

Huang Rong saw Ouyang Ke get to shore and got worried, thinking, “At this point the scoundrel will be prepared for me; it will be harder to scheme against him now.” She swam out a ways and headed left. After a while she saw lush foliage and noticed that this beach was different. She thought of Peach Blossom Island and became sad. Then she thought, “If I can find a safe place here for us to hide for a while, that scoundrel might not find us.” It was not a fantastic plan, but it was better than their situation now and he might not actually find them, giving her master time to recover. So she went ashore but she did not dare explore too far inland since she was afraid of bumping into Ouyang Ke. She stuck close to the seashore, thinking, “If I hadn’t been so carefree in the past and had mastered Father’s Five-Element skills, I’d have been able to handle that scoundrel. Aiyo, Father gave him the map to Peach Blossom Island and he’ll surely be able to understand it.”

She was so absorbed in thought that she tripped on a tree vine and stumbled; above her she heard some rustling noises followed by mud and small pebbles raining down on her. She dashed aside but bumped into a tree behind her and a few of the pebbles hit her body. Fortunately she was wearing the Soft Hedgehog Armour, so she was not really hurt. She looked up and was so stunned that her heart beat rapidly. She saw a sheer cliff face with a gigantic rock at its edge. Half the rock was hanging over the edge and even slight disturbance could bring the rock crashing down. The top of the cliff had many thick vines winding around and the very vine she tripped on just now was attached to the rock. If she snapped a vine connected directly to the thousand-pound rock [the catty in the chapter title is 500 grams or 1.1 lb], the rock could have smacked into her, turning her into mincemeat.

The rock had moved but was not dislodged. Huang Rong became extremely careful and watched where she was going while jumping here and stopping there. She moved back several dozen meters and became curious. She knew that she could pull the rock down with just one arm but no one ever came here; there was not even a bird in sight and the rock had been here for hundreds of years.

Cliffs surrounded this place so even the sea breeze could not get through, and it seemed likely this rock had rocked in the wind for the hundreds of years. As Huang Rong headed back to find her master she suddenly had an idea, “Heaven wants that scoundrel dead and has presented this wonderful opportunity; how can I be so dense?” She became excited and somersaulted twice.

She hurriedly returned to the cliff and carefully examined the place. She saw trees reaching up to the sky and if one wanted to avoid the falling rock, one could only move four or five feet in any direction at most. If that rock came crashing down, even birds or squirrels might not evade it. She took her spike out and cautiously walked to the base of the cliff and noted the seven or eight vines directly attached to the rock so that she would not touch them, then she cut the remaining vines. When she cut a vine she held her breath because she was afraid that one small mistake and it would be she who would be flattened.

When she finished, she was drenched with sweat and felt that it had been more tiring than a fierce battle. She then tied the cut vines together and placed a few heaps of dry grass as markers, then memorized the route she took before heading back. As she went she hummed a few tunes along the way, feeling quite proud of herself. When she got near the cave she still had not seen Ouyang Ke. Then she suddenly heard a perverted laugh coming from inside followed by someone saying, “You claim to be among the best martial artists, yet today you are in Grandfather’s power, how do you feel? All right…because you’re an elder, I’ll let you have a three-move advantage, how’s that? You can display each and every one of the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’!” Huang Rong softly exclaimed, “Ah!” She knew that the situation was dire and shouted, “Father, you’re here? Ah, Uncle Ouyang, you’re here too!”

Ouyang Ke had already assessed Hong Qigong’s abilities and was about to strike when he heard Huang Rong’s shout. He was happy and thought, “How is it possible that Uncle and Old Heretic Huang are here?” Then he thought further, “It must be that girl shouting rubbish to save the old beggar. Fine, since the old beggar is in my control anyway I might as well take a look.” He then exited the cave.

He saw Huang Rong waving towards the beach and shouting, “Father… Father!” Ouyang Ke looked that way but of course he did not see Huang Yaoshi. He laughed, “Sister, you wanted to trick me into coming out to play…how could I refuse?” Huang Rong laughed and said, “Who’s lying?” She then ran to the beach. Ouyang Ke laughed, “This time I’m prepared; you want to drag me into the sea again, so let’s try it.” Then he chased her. His Qinggong [lightness kung fu] was good and he was catching up fast. Huang Rong inwardly exclaimed, “This is bad! I might even get caught before I reach that cliff.” She ran another few dozen meters and Ouyang Ke was almost catching her. Huang Rong broke left and off the beach. Ouyang Ke had learned his lesson and did not dare go near, so he laughed, “OK, let’s play hide-and-seek.”

Though he did not stop, he was prepared for any trick she might try. Huang Rong stopped and laughed, “There’s a large worm in front of you, and if you chase me again it’ll eat you in one gulp.” Ouyang Ke laughed, “I’m a worm too and I’m going to eat you!” He leaped forward but Huang Rong just laughed and ran ahead.

The two came close to the cliff wall soon enough. Huang Rong ran even faster and shouted, “Come on!” Just as she was about to reach the wall, she saw two figures on the beach. She was really curious but did not have the luxury of stopping; she carefully looked for the piles of grass then ran all the way to the cliff’s base.

Ouyang Ke laughed, “Where’s the worm?” He also ran faster and reached the cliff wall quick as an arrow. The spot where Huang Rong stopped was already cleared of vines, but Ouyang Ke, not suspecting a trap, stepped right into it, wrenching the rock out of its place. The vines snapped and Ouyang Ke felt a great pressure descending on him. He looked up and what he saw scared the living daylights out of him; a mountain of a rock rolling down towards him.

Although the rock was very high up, the gust of wind it created was so strong that he could hardly breathe; he hastily jumped backwards, but smacked right into a tree with such a great force that the tree cracked and the splinters pierced him. At this point he was fleeing for his life and ignored the pain. He jumped again, but only managed to move three feet. Now he was in a daze, then suddenly felt as though someone had jolted him awake, dragging him several feet away….but it was too late. Amidst the thunderous rumble and flying dust, he fainted.

Huang Rong saw that her plan had worked and she was very happy. She had not expected the deafening rumble which seemed to shove her aside and her head was hit by the countless grains of dirt and dust. She bent over and held her head for a moment before opening her eyes and saw two shadows through the dust.

As the dust settled, she rubbed her eyes and saw that it was actually West Poison Ouyang Feng and the other was the one she so deeply missed…Guo Jing. Huang Rong shouted and jumped for joy. Guo Jing had never expected to meet her here and he rushed forward and hugged her. In their excitement, they had forgotten that their enemy was close by.

o0o

When Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng were fighting on the boat, neither could gain the advantage, while at the same time the boat was sinking. It took them down with it. Deep in the sea the water pressure was very high and they felt water forcing its way into their ears and noses, causing great pain. They had to stop their struggle and cover their ears and noses.

The bottom of the sea had a swift undercurrent moving in a different direction than the surface current and before they knew it they were swept some distance away. When Guo Jing managed to get up to the surface to breathe it was already dark and the boat seemed very far away. While Guo Jing shouted, at that very moment Huang Rong was looking for him; but they were so far apart, how could they find each other?

Guo Jing shouted again and felt a tug on his leg, followed by another head reaching the surface…it was Ouyang Feng. He was at a disadvantage in the water, so although he was a martial arts master, he struggled wildly and refused to release Guo Jing’s leg.

Guo Jing struggled harder but his other leg was also grabbed. They wrestled for a brief moment before submerging again. When they hit the surface, Guo Jing shouted, “Let my legs go…I won’t desert you.” Ouyang Feng also realized that this would kill them both, so he released his legs and grabbed his shoulder.

Guo Jing supported him, allowing them to float. At this time they saw a large wooden board floating by and it bumped Guo Jing. Ouyang Feng shouted, “Careful!” Guo Jing grabbed it, shouting, “Grab it and don’t let go!”

They looked around but could not see any boats. Ouyang Feng’s Snake Staff was lost and he worried, “If we meet any sharks, we can only hit them wildly like Zhou Botong did. I saved him that time, but who’ll save me now?” They floated for some time and saw many fish swimming by so they had to depend on the fish for survival.

As the ancient saying goes, “Helping each other in the same boat ( 同⾈共济 )”, so these two men who fought a bitter battle just a while ago could share the same raft. During this time they were fortunate not to meet any

danger. In time the current brought them to the island where Hong Qigong and Huang Rong were only two days after their arrival. When they hit shore they lay down for some time before they suddenly heard someone laughing. Ouyang Feng jumped up and followed the laughter and coincidentally met Ouyang Ke who had just fallen into the trap. Ouyang Feng tried to rush forward to save him. He managed to pull him back several feet but Ouyang Ke’s legs were crushed by the rock and he fainted from the pain.

Ouyang Feng was suspicious and looked around but did not find any more danger. He went back to check on his nephew. He noticed that he was still breathing so he tried to push the rock off him, but it did not budge even an inch. He then knelt down and grunting, tried again with both hands. Even though his strength was tremendous, how could even he move a thousand- pound rock?

He bent down just as Ouyang Ke opened his eyes and called, “Uncle!” Ouyang Feng said, “You’ll have to bear with it for a while.” He hugged him and pulled him, but Ouyang Ke screamed and fainted again. The rock had pinned his legs beneath it, so this pulling only worsened his pain but did not free him. Ouyang Feng was perturbed.

Guo Jing held Huang Rong’s hand and asked, “Where’s master?” Huang Rong pointed, saying, “Over there.” Guo Jing hearing that his master was alright was elated and wanted her to lead him there. Then he heard Ouyang Ke’s scream and could not bear it; he said to Ouyang Feng, “I’ll help you.” Huang Rong tugged his sleeve, saying, “Let’s go see master, ignore this bad guy!”

Ouyang Feng did not know that this was a trap set up by her since he saw the rock tumble down and it was impossible for anyone to lift it up the cliff. But when he heard Huang Rong stop Guo Jing, his anger flared. Then he heard that Hong Qigong was here and he was startled, thinking, “That beggar took one of my palms and was also poisoned by my snake, yet he’s not dead; even at that he should be ninety percent dead, so why should I fear him?”

He saw Guo Jing and Huang Rong about to leave so he knelt down again and pretended to push the rock as he waited for them to turn away before saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll save you. For now just concentrate on circulating your Qi to protect your heart and pretend that those legs are not yours.” He followed them and saw them with an arm around each other and talking romantically; he was flabbergasted and thought, “If I don’t torture you until you’re worse than dead, I’m not the Western Poison.”

Huang Rong took Guo Jing to the cave entrance. Guo Jing rushed in and shouted, “Master!” Then he saw that Hong Qigong’s eyes were closed and there was no color in his face. He had been insulted by Ouyang Ke and his injury had relapsed. Huang Rong quickly undid his outer gown while Guo Jing massaged his limbs.

Hong Qigong opened his eyes and saw Guo Jing; he was naturally very happy to see him and smiled, saying in a low voice, “Jing’er, you’re here too!” Guo Jing was about to reply when a rough voice cut in from behind, which said, “Old beggar, so am I.” Guo Jing turned around to block the entrance. Huang Rong snatched her master’s bamboo stick and stood beside Guo Jing.

Ouyang Feng laughed, “Old beggar, come out…if you don’t, I’m coming in.” Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other while thinking, “Even if it costs us our lives, we must not let him molest Master.” Ouyang Feng laughed and stepped in. Guo Jing stepped forward to block him.

Ouyang Feng twisted aside to evade his palm strike and moved to his right. Then a bamboo stick flew over and made a circle that seemed aimed at three separate spots at the same time, making it difficult to deal with. He waved his left hand and swept his leg to force his opponents back. He did not expect Huang Rong’s stick to hit the centre of the circle his leg made.

Ouyang Feng was surprised and jumped back, watching carefully. Huang Rong was using the ‘Dog Beating Skill’ and had managed to force her much stronger opponent backwards. She was feeling very proud of herself. Ouyang Feng had not expected that this girl would learn the old beggar’s wonderful rod skill. He snorted and advanced again to hit her bamboo stick. Huang Rong executed the stick skill she’d just learned as she poked, hit, circled and flew around; although she could not injure him, she managed to evade seven or eight successive moves.

Guo Jing, who was surprised and happy, kept cheering, “Very good Rong’er, great rod skill!” Then he attacked with a fist and palm from the side. Ouyang Feng shouted in anger, then knelt down while launching both palms. Even before the palms arrived the wind from the palms caused dust to fly. Guo Jing saw that the palms were very powerful and was afraid that Huang Rong might get injured if she was hit; he hurriedly pushed her aside and they managed to evade the strike together.

Ouyang Feng stepped forward two steps and struck out again with both palms. His attack was terribly strong and he had fought to a draw with Hong Qigong on Peach Blossom Island a few days ago. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were far from his match and were forced to retreat step by step. Ouyang Feng rushed into the cave and flipped his palm, hitting the stone wall and causing bits of stone to flake off. He brought the other palm up above Hong Qigong’s head and held it there to sense his condition.

Huang Rong said, “My master saved your life, yet you want to hurt him… aren’t you ashamed?” Ouyang Feng pushed Hong Qigong’s chest lightly and felt his chest muscles contract, indicating that his martial abilities were really gone. He was happy inside and lifted him, saying, “If you help me rescue my nephew, I’ll spare the beggar’s life.”

Huang Rong said, “Heaven released the rock that pins him, you saw that yourself, so who can save him? Try any more tricks and Heaven will crush you with a rock too.” Guo Jing noticed that Ouyang Feng had lifted Hong Qigong higher and was prepared to throw him down…but he doubted that he would really do it. Still he was worried and quickly said, “Put him down and we’ll go save your nephew.”

Ouyang Feng missed his nephew and was very eager to hurry to him, but he kept his face impassive and put Hong Qigong down very slowly.

Huang Rong said, “Helping him is not difficult, but let’s make an agreement.” Ouyang Feng said, “What do you want?” Huang Rong said, “After we save your nephew, you must not harm the three of us while we’re here on this island.” Ouyang Feng thought, “My nephew and I are afraid of water; if we want to get back I may need to depend on these three people.” He nodded his head, saying, “OK, I’ll not kill any of you now, but I can’t promise anything after we leave this island.”

Huang Rong said, “When the time comes, even if you leave us alone, we’ll come after you. Another thing, my father has betrothed me to him and you saw that for yourself. If your nephew bothers me again, you’re worse than a pig or a dog.” Ouyang Feng spat, saying, “OK, but that only applies on this island, once we leave, then we’ll see.”

Huang Rong smiled, saying, “Finally, although we’ll try our best to help you, we’re not gods; if fate has decreed that your nephew must die, you can’t blame us.” Ouyang Feng said, “If my nephew dies, you two can forget about living. Little girl, shut up and come save my nephew.” He then ran to where the rock was.

Guo Jing was about to follow when Huang Rong said, “Jing ge ge, when he uses his strength to push the rock, you can strike his back when he least expects it.” Guo Jing answered, “We must honour our word; let’s save his nephew first, then try to avenge Master.” Huang Rong sighed and knew that it was useless to try to get him to backstab someone.

For the past two days she had thought that he’d died in the sea; now that she was with him again her heart exploded with happiness. Even if Guo Jing made any unreasonable demands, she would listen to him; moreover his actions were those of an honorable gentleman, so she smiled sweetly and said, “OK, you’re a saint and I’ll listen to you.”

They ran to the base of the cliff and heard Ouyang Ke groaning in the distance. Ouyang Feng shouted, “Hurry up!” They went over and stood beside him and three pairs of hands pushed the rock together. Ouyang Feng said, “Up!” and they pushed at the same time. The rock moved an inch before slamming down again. Ouyang Ke screamed and his eyes rolled up.

Ouyang Feng was shocked and immediately supported him and felt his breathing was weak. To bear the pain he’d bitten through his tongue, filling his mouth with blood. Even with Ouyang Feng’s outstanding martial arts, he was powerless to move the rock. Now he had made it worse for his nephew and also lost a shoe in the sand. Ouyang Feng bent down to pick up his shoe and got another shock…the tide was slowly rising and was already reaching the rock. Ouyang Feng menacingly said, “Little girl, if you want your master to live, you’d better save my nephew quickly.”

Huang Rong was already thinking about it. The rock was enormous and there was no one else who could help them…how could they move it? She had come up with more than ten ideas in a flash, but none seemed workable; when she heard Ouyang Feng, she said, “If Master wasn’t injured, we could easily move this rock with his tremendous strength. Now…” She threw up her hands to indicate that it was useless.

Though his sentence was said in anger, Ouyang Feng thought, “Maybe it really is fate; if the old beggar wasn’t injured and with his chivalrous nature, he’d definitely help. Who knew that when I injured him, it was as good as killing my own nephew?” Although Ouyang Ke was officially his nephew, he’d had an affair with his sister-in-law and he was in fact his son.

Ouyang Feng was usually cold-hearted, but now he felt regret. He turned his head and saw the water had risen a few more feet. Ouyang Ke yelled, “Uncle, kill me with one blow! I… I can’t take it anymore!” Ouyang Feng took out a sharp knife and gritted his teeth, saying, “You bear with it for a while; even without your legs you can still live.” He moved forward with the intention of severing his nephew’s legs.

Ouyang Ke exclaimed, “No, no, Uncle, just stab me to death!” Ouyang Feng said angrily, “With so many years of my guidance, how can you be so useless?” Ouyang Ke hugged his chest and tried to bear the pain, not daring to say another word. Ouyang Feng saw that the rock had pinned him nearly to the hips; even if he amputated his legs, he might not live…so he hesitated.

Huang Rong saw that the uncle and nephew had nothing left to say and both looked dejected; her heart softened and she remembered how her father moved rocks on Reach Blossom Island. She exclaimed, “Wait! I’ve got a way, but I’m not sure if it will work.” Ouyang Feng was elated and said, “Good lady, just say it!”

Huang Rong was thinking, “Now that you want to save your nephew, you’re not calling me names anymore…but ‘Good Lady’, huh!” She smiled and said, “OK, you must listen to me now. Let’s cut some tree bark and make a rope strong enough to lift this rock.” Ouyang Feng said, “Who’s going to pull the rope?” Huang Rong said, “We’ll pull like raising a sail…” Ouyang Feng immediately understood and said, “Yes, yes, just like that!”

Guo Jing heard Huang Rong mention using tree bark and did not question her; instead he pulled out his dagger and began cutting some tree bark. Ouyang Feng and Huang Rong followed his lead and within a short time, they had cut many strips of tree bark. As Ouyang Feng was cutting the bark he looked at his nephew and suddenly exclaimed, “Don’t cut anymore!” Huang Rong curiously asked, “What…why not?”

Ouyang Feng pointed at his nephew and Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at him. They saw that the tide was rising faster and had already submerged half his body. He would be drowned before they had gathered enough material. Ouyang Ke was motionless in the water. Huang Rong said, “Don’t fret. Just cut!”

Although Ouyang Feng was a monster, he meekly obeyed her. Huang Rong jumped down from the tree and ran to Ouyang Ke and used several big stones to support his upper body. That way his nose was still above water.

In a low voice Ouyang Ke said, “Miss Huang, thank you. Even if I don’t live, I’ll die contented knowing that you tried to save me.” Huang Rong felt apologetic and said, “Don’t thank me. Do you know that I was the one who laid this trap?” Ouyang Ke said, “Don’t speak so loudly; if my uncle hears it, he won’t let you off. I guessed it long ago; to die at your hands would leave me with no regrets.”

Huang Rong sighed and thought, “Although this person is annoying, he treats me nicely.” She returned to the tree and began braiding the bark. She joined three together to form a thin rope and then six ropes together to form a thick rope, and then she joined several thick ropes together to form a massive rope. Ouyang Feng continuously cut tree bark while Huang Rong unceasingly wove the ropes.

Although they were fast, the tide was faster and even before the massive rope was half-complete, the water had risen up to Ouyang Ke’s mouth. Soon only his nose was left sticking out. Ouyang Feng jumped down and said, “You can go. I want to speak with my nephew. You have tried your best and I appreciate it.” His voice was heavy with emotion and he was seemingly resigned to the situation.

Guo Jing saw that it was hopeless and went off together with Huang Rong. They’d walked several zhang when Huang Rong whispered, “Let’s go behind the rock and listen to what he says.” Guo Jing said, “That doesn’t concern us. Besides, he’ll discover us.” Huang Rong said, “Once his nephew dies, he’ll try to harm Master, so we must keep ourselves informed to be prepared. If we’re found out we’ll just say that we’ve come back to send his nephew off.”

Guo Jing nodded. They went around a bend, behind some trees, and then stealthily crept back behind the rock. They heard Ouyang feng say, “Go in peace. I know what you’re thinking…you wanted Old Heretic Huang to marry his daughter to you, but I fear I can’t grant your wish.”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong were startled and thought, “He’s about to die; why would Ouyang Feng say that?” As they heard more, they became angrier. Ouyang Feng was actually saying, “I’ll go kill that girl and bury her with you. Everyone dies; if you can’t live with her then you can die with her and have no regrets.”

Ouyang Ke’s mouth was beneath the water and he could not speak. Huang Rong took Guo Jing’s hand and they stealthily left. Around the corner, Guo Jing angrily said, “Let’s confront that old poisonous thing.” Huang Rong said, “With him we must compare wits, not strength.” Guo Jing asked, “How?” Huang Rong said, “I’m thinking.”

As they walked near a ravine, she saw some reeds. Huang Rong thought of something and said, “If he weren’t so evil, I could save his nephew.” Guo Jing quickly asked, “How?” Huang Rong took out her knife and cut a hollow reed and put it to her mouth and breathed through it for a while. Guo Jing laughed, “Ah…that is really a good idea. How did you think of it? Should we save him?”

Huang Rong pouted, “Of course not. That old poisonous thing wants to kill me…let him do it, hmm, I’m not afraid.” But when she thought of Ouyang Feng’s cruel methods, she could not help but gasp. His martial arts were much stronger than his nephew’s and he was much more cunning. If they fell into his trap, it would not be good. Guo Jing remained silent.

Huang Rong took his hand, saying gently, “Don’t tell me you want me to save that scoundrel? You’re worried about me, right? Those two may not treat us well.” Guo Jing said, “You’re right, but I am worried about you and Master. Since that old poisonous thing is the head of a sect, what he says has some credibility.” Huang Rong said, “OK, let’s save him and then talk; we’ll plan as we go along.”

They turned back and saw Ouyang Feng standing in the water, supporting his nephew. When he saw the duo coming, his eyes glinted and it was obvious he wanted to kill them. He said roughly, “I told you to leave; why did you return?” Huang Rong sat down on a stone and laughed, “I came to see if he’s dead yet.” Ouyang Feng snapped, “So what if he’s dead, so what if he’s alive?”

Huang Rong said, “If he’s dead then it’s no use now!” Ouyang Feng jumped out of the water, hastily saying, “Good… good lady, he’s not dead yet, you must have found a way. Say it…say it quickly.” Huang Rong threw the hollow reed over and said, “Put it in his mouth and he won’t die.” Ouyang Feng was happy and jumped into the water and stuffed the reed into his nephew’s mouth.

The water had already covered his nose and he was exhaling his last bit of air, but his ears could still hear their conversation. When the reed reached his mouth, he breathed hard, felt comfortable and momentarily forgot about the pain in his legs. Ouyang Feng said, “Quick…hurry, let’s connect the ropes.” Huang Rong laughed, “Uncle Ouyang, you want me dead to accompany your nephew, isn’t that right?” Ouyang Feng jerked and thought, “How did she hear what I said?” Huang Rong laughed, “If you kill me and you meet some trouble later, who’s going to help you?” Now that Ouyang Feng was depending on her, he could only pretend not to hear her and went back to work on the tree bark.

They worked for more than two hours and made an enormously thick rope nearly thirty zhang long [99 meters or 325 ft]. By now the water level was nearly half-way up the rock. Ouyang Ke’s head was a few feet under water and only the tip of the hollow reed was exposed. Ouyang Feng was still worried and occasionally reached his hand under the water to check on him.

After another hour the water began to recede and Ouyang Ke’s head was slowly emerging. Huang Rong measured the rope’s length and shouted, “Enough! Now I need four massive poles for the ‘masts’.” Ouyang Feng was doubtful; he knew that on this deserted island, even a knife was hard to find, much less an axe sturdy enough for their task. He asked, “How do we get that?” Huang Rong said, “Don’t worry, just find the wood first.”

Ouyang Feng was afraid she would throw a tantrum and refuse to help him, so he did not ask again and ran around looking for trees with thick enough trunks. He crouched down, gathered his strength and launched his palms at each of the trees. The trees fell after a few strikes. Guo Jing and Huang Rong witnessed this powerful display of internal strength and shuddered. Ouyang Feng found a long and flat rock and used that to cut away the tree branches.

Now Guo Jing and Huang Rong tied the rope round three of the thick tree trunks and looped the rope around the large rock before tying the end to the final tree trunk. That trunk was a centuries-old oak tree and even the arms of three or four people were not enough to circle the tree. Huang Rong said, “I guess this tree can handle the rock, right?” Ouyang Feng nodded.

Huang Rong told them to connect one more thick rope and they arranged the four tree trunks around the tree, forming a crisscross shape and looped the rope round the top. Ouyang Feng praised her, “Good lady, you’re really smart, just like your father.” Huang Rong laughed, “But how can I be compared to your nephew? Let’s start!”

They acted together and used the oak tree as the pivot to pull the crisscross shaped formation. The rope became taut and the rock lifted slowly. The sun was about to set and the sky was red, illuminating the surface of the water.

The tide had already gone out and Ouyang Ke’s body lay in the mud and his eyes were fixed on the rock. It moved slowly and steadily with a creaking sound, causing him to be anxiously happy. Though the rope had made one complete turn around its loop, the rock had only moved an inch and it was already causing great strain on the pivot point.

Although Ouyang Feng did not believe in divine intervention, he silently prayed throughout the process. Suddenly the rope snapped and the rock slammed down onto Ouyang Ke again; he tried to scream but no sound came out. The rope flew back and hit Huang Rong, knocking her off her feet. Guo Jing quickly helped her up.

At this stage Ouyang Feng lost all hope and Huang Rong could hardly smile. Guo Jing said, “We can join them back together, add another rope and try again.” Ouyang Feng shook his head, “That’ll be harder; the three of us aren’t enough.” Guo Jing mumbled to himself, “If only someone else would help us.” Ouyang Feng got angry and snapped, “Obviously!” He knew Guo Jing had good intentions, but in his depression he vented his frustrations on him.

Huang Rong thought for a while then jumped up, laughing and clapping, “Yes, yes, there’s someone who can help us.” Guo Jing asked, “Who might that be?” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, Brother Ouyang will have to bear more discomfort and wait for the tide to come in again before he can be set free.” Ouyang Feng and Guo Jing both looked at her thinking, “Are you thinking that when the tide comes in, someone will come to our aid?”

Huang Rong laughed, “We’re all tired and hungry; let’s find some food.” Ouyang Feng said, “Miss, you said someone will help us, please explain.” Huang Rong said, “At this time tomorrow, Brother Ouyang will be free. For now I can’t reveal the secret.” Ouyang Feng saw that she had great confidence in herself and his doubts lessened. But he was still skeptical so he stayed with his nephew.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong caught a few wild hares and cooked one for the uncle and his nephew; then they shared the rest with Hong Qigong. When Guo Jing learned that the trap had been set by her, he was surprised and happy. They knew that Ouyang Feng was with his nephew and would not bother them, so they lit a fire at the cave entrance to prevent any wild animals from coming in and they slept very well. The next morning, Guo Jing saw a shadow at the entrance and he quickly jumped up. He saw Ouyang Feng standing there saying, “Is Miss Huang awake?”

Huang Rong was already awake but she pretended to be soundly asleep. Guo Jing whispered, “Not yet. What is it?” Ouyang Feng said, “When she wakes up, ask her to save him.” Guo Jing said, “OK.” Hong Qigong said, “I had her drink the ‘Hundred-Day-Drunken-Stupor’ Wine as well as hit her Sleeping Acupoint. It’ll hard to wake her for three months.”

Ouyang Feng was startled and Hong Qigong laughed heartily. Ouyang Feng realized that he was joking and became angry. Huang Rong sat up and laughed, “If we don’t tease the Old Poison now, when will we get another chance?” She then combed her hair, washed her face extremely slowly and then went out to fish and catch rabbits for breakfast. Meanwhile Ouyang Feng paced up and down like he had ants in his pants. Guo Jing said, “Rong’er, when the water rises, will there really be someone to save him?”

Huang Rong said, “What do you think?” Guo Jing shook his head and said, “I really don’t think so.” Huang Rong laughed, “Me neither.” Guo Jing was startled, “So you lied to him?” Huang Rong said, “Not really; when the tide rises, I have a way to save him.” Guo Jing knew that she was very intelligent and resourceful so he did not question her further. Then they went to play around in the flowers.

Huang Rong had no companions when she was young and always played on the beach on Peach Blossom Island by herself. Now that she had Guo Jing with her, she was extremely happy. They played and laughed endlessly on the beach. Huang Rong said, “Jing ge ge, your hair is terribly messy, let me comb it.”

They sat together on a rock. Huang Rong took out a small golden-jade comb and combed his hair carefully, then sighed, “Why don’t we think of a way to get rid of those two poisonous creatures and then we can live here together with Master and never leave this place…what do you think?” Guo Jing said, “I was thinking of my six masters.” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, and my Father too.”

After a while she said, “I wonder how Sister Mu is doing? Master asked me to be the Leader of the Beggar Clan and I’m starting to miss those beggars too.” Guo Jing laughed, “Looks like we’ll have to think of a way to get back.” Huang Rong finished with his hair and tied it up. Guo Jing said, “The way you comb my hair reminds me of my mother.”

Huang Rong laughed, “You can call me Mother then.” Guo Jing smiled without replying. Huang Rong tickled him and asked, “Aren’t you going to say it?” Guo Jing laughed and jumped up, messing his hair again. Huang Rong laughed too, “It’s ok if you won’t say it. Do you think anyone will call me ‘Mother’ in the future? Sit down.”

Guo Jing sat down and Huang Rong wiped the sweat away, then kissed his forehead lightly. She thought of the previous day’s fight with Ouyang Feng and remembered that Guo Jing had praised her ‘Dog Beating Skills’, so she wanted to teach it to him. Huang Rong knew that his martial arts had improved a lot and was more excited about that than her own skills.

Since she was Huang Yaoshi’s daughter, she had access to wonderful martial arts skills since she was young, but she really did not pay attention to wonderful skills, just like a rich man’s son would not bother about gold or silver. Then she thought, “This skill is meant exclusively for the Beggar Clan Leader, so I can’t teach him” She asked, “Jing ge ge, do you want to be the Beggar Clan’s Leader?”

Guo Jing said, “Master wants you to be the Clan Leader, why do you ask me?” Huang Rong said, “I’m a young girl and I don’t look like a Beggar Clan Leader. Why don’t I give up this appointment to you? With your commanding appearance the beggars will listen to you. Besides, if you become the Leader, this marvelous skill will be yours.” Guo Jing said, “No, no. I can’t be the Leader. I’m not intelligent enough to handle even small matters, much less important matters.”

Huang Rong knew he was right. Even though Hong Qigong had no choice but to have her succeed him during this crisis, he must have known that despite her youth, she was very intelligent and probably no less capable than the four Elders. Also, he did not give her permission to give this responsibility to someone else and not even a silly boy who knew the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’ and the ‘Dog Beating Skill’ could become the Leader. So she laughed, “OK. But I’m afraid that you can’t learn this skill, then.”

Guo Jing said, “There’s no difference between you and me knowing it.” Huang Rong knew that this sentence came from his heart and she was touched. She said, “When Master recovers I’ll return the position to him. Then… then…” She wanted to say “Then we can get married” but somehow the words would not come out of her mouth. She asked, “Jing ge ge, do you know where babies come from?”

Guo Jing said, “I know.” Huang Rong said, “Where?” Guo Jing said, “When people get married, they have babies.” Huang Rong said, “Yes I know that too. But why do married people have babies?” Guo Jing said. “That I don’t know.” Huang Rong said, “Me neither. I asked Father, but he said they crawl out of nests.”

Guo Jing was about to ask more when they suddenly heard a sharp voice saying, “Making babies? You’ll know that when you grow up. The tide is already rising!” Huang Rong gasped and jumped up; she had not expected Ouyang Feng to be listening to them. Although she did not understand male-female relationships, she knew that talking about such stuff was embarrassing, so her face turned red and they quickly ran to the cliff.

Ouyang Ke had been under the rock for twenty-four hours and had been through much suffering. Ouyang Feng kept a straight face and said, “Miss Huang, you said that someone would come to help when the tide rises, this is not a joke.” Huang Rong said, “My father knows the changes of the Five Elements, so of course his daughter would know a bit, although I can’t be compared with him. Still, I can predict a bit of the future.”

Ouyang Feng knew about her father’s abilities, so he said, “Your father is coming? Splendid.” Huang Rong paused, and then said, “Such a small matter wouldn’t need my father’s presence. Moreover, if my father knew that you hurt my master, he wouldn’t let you off. With us two included, how can you win? So what are you happy about?” Ouyang Feng could not argue this point and remained sullenly silent.

Huang Rong said to Guo Jing, “Jing ge ge, go get some tree branches…the more the better.” Guo Jing agreed and went. Huang Rong mended the rope which had snapped the previous day with more bark. Ouyang Feng kept asking who was coming but she just hummed songs without replying.

Ouyang Feng was dissatisfied. But when he saw Huang Rong’s relaxed expression, it kept his hopes up, so he went to help Guo Jing. He watched Guo Jing execute the ‘Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms’ and he only needed a few hits to bring down a sturdy tree. He thought, “His martial arts are good. Coupled with the ‘Nine Yin Manual’, he spells future disaster for me.”

He decided that he had to extract his nephew dead or alive. He crouched down between two trees, sent out his palms simultaneously and each palm hit a tree, causing it to break. Guo Jing was awed and said, “Uncle Ouyang, I wonder when I can match your standard.” Ouyang Feng did not reply but thought, “In your next life.”

They carried all the wood back to the base of the cliff. Ouyang Feng looked out into the sea but could not even see the smallest speck of a boat. Huang Rong asked, “What are you looking for? No one’s coming.” Ouyang Feng was surprised and angry. He raised his voice, “No one?” Huang Rong said, “This is a deserted island and no one will come here.” Ouyang Feng was flabbergasted, unable to speak and waiting to kill someone.

Huang Rong did not look at him directly but turned to Guo Jing and said, “Jing ge ge, what’s the most you can lift?” Guo Jing said, “Around 400 jin [200kg / 440lbs].” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, how about a 1200 jin rock?” Guo Jing said, “I think not.” Huang Rong said, “How about a 1200 jin rock in the water?”

Ouyang Feng realized what she meant and yelled happily, “Yes, yes, that’s correct!” Guo Jing however had yet to understand it. Ouyang Feng said, “When the tide rises, it half-submerges this rock, causing it to be lighter; we’ll try it again and it’ll definitely work.”

Huang Rong said coldly, “Yeah, but the trees will be half-submerged too; how are you going to work underwater?” Ouyang Feng bit his teeth and said, “Leave that to fate.” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. Go tie and the branches to the rock.”

When she said that, Guo Jing understood too and cheered; working together with Ouyang Feng they began tying several large branches around the rock. Ouyang Feng was afraid that the buoyancy would not be enough, so he tied seven or eight large pieces of wood together and then helped Guo Jing connect the rope that had snapped the previous day. Huang Rong stood aside and smiled, watching them work. Within two hours it was ready and the only thing lacking was the tide.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong went to visit their master. In the afternoon, the tide began to rise and Ouyang Feng ran up to inform them. The three of them went back together. After some time, the tide reached its highest level and they stood in the water and looped the rope around the oak tree. Then they operated the crisscrossed-shaped mechanism again. This time, with the pieces of wood tied to the rock, the buoyancy was quite high and it seemed like there were many strong men helping to lift the rock. The three did not use much effort to move the rock. After turning a few rounds of rope round the tree, Ouyang Feng held his breath and pulled his nephew to the surface.

Guo Jing, knowing that they had been successful, could not help but cheer. Huang Rong clapped continuously and actually forgot that it was she who set the trap.