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The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Chapter 25

Chapter 25 – Desolated Inn in the Village

Huang Yaoshi laughed and said, “Guan Yin and this lady, stay.” Lu Guanyin was aware that his grand-teacher had arrived earlier but when he saw Huang Yaoshi with his mask on, he was afraid that the former would not be willing to remove his identity and thus, didn’t dare to address him properly. He decided to bow politely four times so as to greet Huang Yaoshi.

When Yin Zhiping saw how formidable Huang Yaoshi looked, he knew that he was of high status and bowed while saying, “Quanzhen Sect’s Eternal Spring’s disciple, Yin Zhiping greets senior.”

Huang Yaoshi retorted, “Everyone has gotten lost and I did not ask you to stay on. Why are you still here? Are you tired of living?”

Yin Zhiping was taken aback, “Disciple is a student of Eternal Spring of Quanzhen Sect. I am not a criminal.”

Huang Yaoshi answered, “So what if you’re from Quanzhen Sect?” With that, he grabbed a corner of the table and removed a piece of wood before flinging it effortlessly at Yin Zhiping. Yin Zhiping quickly used his whisk to raise some dusts to block the attack but the small piece of wood seemed to be made out of metal and he felt a strong force charge towards him. He could not defend the force and the piece of wood and whisk slapped onto his cheek. Yin Zhiping felt a strong pain and there seemed to be some stuff in his mouth. He hurriedly spitted it out onto his palm before realizing that it was a few of his teeth, which laid on his bloody palm. He was shocked and frightened and didn’t dare to make any sound.

Huang Yaoshi continued coldly, “I am the one called Huang Yaoshi, Hei Yaoshi. What does Quanzhen Sect want so show me?” With these words, Yin Zhiping and Cheng Yaojia were taken aback. Lu Guanyin was also shaken and thought to himself, “Grand-teacher must have heard me quarrel with that little Taoist quarrel just now. If he heard what I said to Prince Zao, then…then…I think father will also…” before breaking into cold sweat. Yin Zhiping rubbed his cheek and said, “You are a senior in the Wulin World but why do you behave so shrewdly? The 6 freaks of Jiangnan are heroic people, why must you force to them the corner? If not for my teacher spreading the news, won’t the 6 of them be killed by you already?”

Huang Yaoshi was furious, “No wonder I couldn’t find them. So it’s a bunch of rascals poking their noses into this matter.”

Yin Zhiping was agitated and shouted, “If you want to kill me, then do so. I’m not afraid of you.”

Huang Yaoshi replied coldly, “Didn’t you have fun scolding me behind my back?”

Yin Zhiping spared no thought for his life and shouted, “I’ll scold in front of you as well. You demon, you weirdo!”

Ever since Huang Yaoshi became famous, no one, no matter good or bad, would dare to be offensive in front of him. He had never met someone as straightforward and disrespectful as Yin Zhiping. The latter had seen how cruelly he dealt with Hou Tonghai just now and yet, was still not afraid to offend him. Huang Yaoshi was surprised and thought that the little Taoist had backbone and was bold, as bold he when he was young. Huang Yaoshi could not help but compare Yin Zhiping to his younger self while he stepped forward and said in a cold voice, “If you dare, scold some more.”

Yin Zhiping said, “I’m not scared of you and yes I want to scold you demonic weirdo.”

Lu Guanyin thought secretly, “Oh no, the little Taoist is not going to be able to escape death.” He yelled out, “Bold Bastard! You dare offend my grand- teacher?” With that, he raised his saber and made an attack for his shoulder. Lu Guanyin was actually secretly trying to help Yin Zhiping. He was sure that his Huang Yaoshi would show him no mercy after all the insults. If Huang Yaoshi attacked, even ten Yin Zhipings would not be able to escape alive. Lu Guanyin hoped that if he injured Yin Zhiping, his grand-teacher’s anger would subside somewhat and let that little Taoist off.

Yin Zhiping evaded the attack with two steps and frowned angrily before shouting, “I don’t want to live after today so I’m going to scold until I’m happy.” Lu Guanyin was bent on injuring him so as to save his life and thus, made another attack with his saber. At the same moment, Cheng Yaojia unsheathed her sword and called out, “I’m also a disciple of Quanzhen sect. If you want to kill, then kill both of us!”

Yin Zhiping did not expect this and shouted, “Good, Apprentice Sister Cheng!” Both of them stood shoulder-to-shoulder and stared at Huang Yaoshi. Lu Guanyin could not attack anymore.

Huang Yaoshi laughed out, “Good, you have guts, have backbone. I, Huang Yaoshi am in fact a heretic demon, you didn’t scold wrongly. Your teacher is my junior, how can I fight with a little Taoist then? Go then!” He suddenly stretched out his arm and grabbed Yin Zhiping’s chest before flinging him outside. Yin Zhiping couldn’t control himself and flew out of the door. He thought that he would fall badly but who would have thought that both his feet landed on the ground and he was still standing normally. He thought that Huang Yaoshi must have grabbed him and dropped him gently onto the ground. Yin Zhiping dazed for a second before thinking, “Close Shave!” No matter how brave he was, he did not dare go back into the inn to scold Huang Yaoshi. He stroked his swollen cheek and turned to leave.

Cheng Yaojia sheathed her sword and made to leave when Huang Yaoshi said, “Wait.”

He stretched out his hand to remove his mask and asked, “Are you willing to be his wife?” while pointing at Lu Guanyin. Cheng Yaojia was shocked but her snow-white skin to turn red slowly.

Huang Yaoshi said, “Your apprentice brother scolded right. I am a heretic weirdo. Who doesn’t know about Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi, the owner of Peach Blossom Island? The thing Old Heretic Huang hates most this life is rules and conventions, especially saints and whatnots. These are just things to cheat dumb people. It’s such a joke that people have been blindly abiding to these rules and conventions for generations! I, Huang Yaoshi don’t believe in these nonsensical teachings. Everyone say I’m heretic, humph! At least a heretic is better than those jerks who talk about morals and principals but caused the deaths of so many!” Cheng Yaojia was silent but her heart beat wildly. She did not know how he was going to deal with her.

But she only heard him say, “Tell me properly. Do you want to marry my grand-disciple? I like people who are straightforward and have backbone. That little Taoist scolded me behind my back. If he didn’t dare do that in front of me and kneeled down to beg me just now, do you think I would have killed him? Humph, you dared to help that little Taoist even though you knew it was dangerous, so it shows that your character is good and compatible with my Grand-disciple. Hurry up and answer me!”

Cheng Yaojia was willing with all her heart but she didn’t even dare tell people like her parents, what more an outsider? Furthermore, Lu Guanyin was standing beside him. Huang Yaoshi saw that her pretty face was as red as a rose while Lu Guanyin also lowered his head and suddenly thought of his daughter. He let out a sigh and said, “If both of you love each other, I will give my blessings. Ah, even parents can’t decide the marriage for their children.”

He knew that if he had agreed to his daughter and Guo Jing’s marriage, his beloved daughter would not have died in the deep sea and was vexed. He raised his voice, “Guanyin, stop beating around the bush, do you want her to be your wife or not?”

Lu Guanyin was stunned and answered hurriedly, “Grand-teacher, Grand- disciple’s afraid that I am not good enough for…” Huang Yaoshi cut in, “Good enough! You are my grand-disciple, you are good enough even for a princess!”

Lu Guanyin saw Huang Yaoshi’s eagerness and knew that if continued hesitating, the situation would turn worse. He answered hurriedly, “Grand- disciple is willing.” Huang Yaoshi smiled and said, “Good. What about you Miss?”

Cheng Yaojia felt a sweet sensation in her heart when she heard Lu Guanyin’s words, when she heard Huang Yaoshi’s question, she lowered her head and said softly, “I need father to help me decide.”

Huang Yaoshi replied, “What parent’s decision? All nonsensical rubbish, I want to be the one to make the decision! If your father is unwilling, ask him to come and duel with me.”

Cheng Yaojia smiled, “Father only knows how to calculate accounts and do calligraphy, he doesn’t know any martial arts.” Huang Yaoshi thought for a while, “Then we’ll compete using calculation! Humph, talking about calculations, who on earth can win me? Hurry up, are you willing or not?

Cheng Yaojia kept quiet and Huang Yaoshi said, “Alright, so you aren’t willing then, it’s up to you. We keep to our words and Old Heretic Huang never allows anyone to regret their decisions.” Cheng Yaojia stole a glance at Lu Guanyin and saw that his expression had turned anxious. She thought to herself, “Father dotes on me the most. If I ask Auntie to talk to father and you ask someone to seek my hand, father will agree. Why are you so anxious?”

Huang Yaoshi stood up and shouted, “Guanyin, follow me to look for the 6 freaks of Jiangnan! If you ever speak to this lady again, I’ll cut off both of your tongues.”

Lu Guanyin was shocked and knew that his grand-teacher was capable of such acts. He walked in front of Cheng Yaojia and cupped his palms into a greeting posture before saying, “Miss, Lu Guanyin is lowly skilled in martial arts and is untalented and uneducated. I live a wandering life and am not good enough for you. But I think it is fate that we should meet today…”

Cheng Yaojia answered softly, “Mister doesn’t have to be humble. I…I… am not…” and she kept silent. Lu Guanyin’s heart skipped a beat and he thought to make her answer by nodding or shaking her head, “Miss, if you do not find me up to par with you, please shake your head.” After he said this, his heart pumped frantically as he looked at her delicate face, worried that she would shake her head.

After a while, Cheng Yaojia still kept still and did not even more a finger. Lu Guanyin was delighted and said, “Since Miss is willing to marry me, please nod you head.” But Cheng Yaojia still did not move. Lu Guanyin ws anxious and Huang Yaoshi was exasperated and said, “You don’t shake and you don’t nod. What does that mean?”

Cheng Yaojia said softly, “If I don’t shake my head, it…it…means that I nod my head…” These words were mumbled so softly such that only Huang Yaoshi, who had a high level of internal energy and sharp ears, could hear it. Had it been a few years earlier, he would not be able to hear anything but just see her lips moving slightly.

Huang Yaoshi laughed loudly, “Wang Chongyang has all along been a heroic and brave man. Who would have thought that his disciple would be so wishy-washy? That’s just so funny. Alright, I will see through your marriage today.” The couple was taken aback and stared at Huang Yaoshi speechlessly, who continued asking, “Where is that silly lady? I want to ask her who her teacher is.” When the three of them were talking in the inn, Sha Gu had disappeared somewhere.

Huang Yaoshi continues, “Anyway, there’s no rush to find her now. Guanyin, you will marry Miss Cheng here then.” Lu Guanyin replied, “Grand-disciple is very grateful for grand-teacher’s love but to marry here is somehow too plain…” Huang Yaoshi retorted, “You are a disciple of the Peach Blossom Island, do you want to abide to conventions as well? Come come, stand side by side both of you, and bow to the sky!” His tone was stern and serious and they did not dare disobey him. Cheng Yaojia had reached this stage and knew that she could not do anything but carry on the rituals with Lu Guanyin. Huang Yaoshi continued, “Bow to the earth!… Bow to your grand-teacher ah…good, good, happiness, happiness! Bow to each other!” Huang Rong and Guo Jing watched Huang Yaoshi orchestrate the show and were surprised but delighted as well. They found it very funny while Huang Yaoshi continued, “Excellent! Guanyin, go and get a candle for your nuptial night.” Lu Guanyin was stunned and said, “Grand-teacher!” Huang Yaoshi replied, “Why? After completing the ceremony, isn’t it time for your nuptial night? You and your wife are pugilists, so you don’t need a glamorous room with beautiful blankets right? Can’t you also have your nuptial night in this broken inn?” Lu Guanyin didn’t dare answer back but he was excited and delighted at the same time. He followed his grand-teacher’s instructions and went to the village to get a pair of red candles, some wine and chicken, and prepared a meal with Cheng Yaojia in the kitchen before serving it to their grand-teacher.

After that, Huang Yaoshi was silent and raised his head, thinking about his daughter but hiding his sadness. Huang Rong saw his expressions and knew that he was thinking about her. She felt terrible and wanted to shout out but was afraid that once her father discovered her, would bring her back to Peach Blossom Island. Even if he did not kill Guo Jing, Guo Jing would not be able to survive. When she thought about this, she took back her hand from the door. Lu Guanyin and Cheng Yaojia stole glances at Huang Yaoshi and looked at each other, while feeling happy but awkward. Their faces and ears were both red and they did not dare to make a sound. Ouyang Ke was lying amongst the straws and wood and listened attentively. Although he was starving, he did not dare to make any noise.

The sky gradually turned dark. Cheng Yaojia’s heart was thumping louder and louder. She heard Huang Yaoshi talking to himself, “Why hasn’t that Silly Girl come back? Humph, that bunch of traitors better not give her any trouble.” Turning his head to Lu Guanying he said, “Tonight is your wedding night; why don’t you light some candles?”

“Yes!” Lu Guanying replied. He took a flint and lighted the candles. Under the bright candlelight he saw that Cheng Da Xiaojie’s [Eldest Miss Cheng] hair on her temples were like a cloud of mist, her cheeks were as white as snow, her face showed a bashful and surprised feeling; it was truly hard to describe with words. Outside the door the insects were buzzing, the evening breeze swayed the bamboo trees; he felt like it was a dream! Huang Yaoshi took a wooden bench and placed it on the doorstep, then he laid down on it. Soon afterwards he was snoring lightly; looked like he was sound asleep. Lu and Cheng couple still did not dare to move. After a long time the red candle burned out, the flame died down and the room became dark.

Lu and Cheng couple spoke to each other in low voices. Huang Rong leaned her head sideways trying to listen, but she could not hear what they were talking about. Suddenly she felt Guo Jing’s body tremble, his breathing has quickened. Apparently his internal energy flow had reached a branched passage, so she busily helped him to overcome this obstacle. After his breathing turned normal she turned her attention to the room one more time. She saw the moonlight slanted down from the broken window outside. Lu and Cheng couple was still sitting side by side on the bench. She heard Cheng Yaojia speak in low voice, “Do you know what day is today?”

“Today is our happiest day,” Lu Guanying replied.

“That goes without saying,” Cheng Yaojia said, “Today is the second day of the seventh month, my third [maternal] aunt’s birthday.”

Lu Guanying smiled, “Ah, you must have many relatives,” he said, “It must be difficult to remember all those birthdays.”

Huang Rong thought, “Your wife belongs to a big clan in Baoying; her maternal aunts’, her paternal aunts’, her nephews’ and nieces’ birthdays will come and go; but can they be compared to you, the Great Leader Lu of the Lake Tai’s stronghold?” Suddenly she recalled something, “Today is the second day of the seventh month, Jing Gege will need until the seventh to recover. The Beggar Clan’s general assembly is on the fifteenth at Yueyang City. We have a very tight schedule.”

Suddenly there was a long whistle outside, followed by a loud laughter, shaking the roof tiles; it was precisely Zhou Botong’s voice. He called out, “Old Poison, you have been chasing me from Lin’an to Jiaxing and from Jiaxing back to Lin’an, one day and one night, throughout you can’t overtake the Old Urchin. Victory or defeat between us two has already been decided. What else do you want to compete in?” Huang Rong was startled, “From Lin’an to Jiaxing and back is more than five hundred ‘li’s; these two men’s feet are truly fast.”

Ouyang Feng’s voice was heard replying, “Even if you run to the end of the earth I will still chase you.”

Zhou Botong laughed, “We won’t eat, we won’t sleep, we won’t even urinate or defecate; let’s see who can run the longest. Do you dare to compete with me?”

“Why not?” Ouyang Feng replied, “I want to see who will drop dead of exhaustion first!”

“Old Poison,” Zhou Botong said, “You won’t be able to compete with me in not urinating and not defecating.”

They both stopped talking and let out a long laugh instead, but the laughter seemed to come from more than a dozen of ‘zhang’s away already. Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia did not know what kind of people these men were, who swiftly came and went in the middle of the night. They looked at each other in astonishment; then hand in hand they walked to the door to take a look.

Huang Rong thought, “If these two are competing their feet power, then father will surely want to watch.” Sure enough, she heard Lu Guanying’s surprised voice, “Ah, where is Grandmaster?”

“Look over there,” Cheng Yaojia said, “There are three shadows; the last one looks like your Grandmaster.”

“That’s right,” Lu Guanying said, “Ah, they are that far already. I wonder what kind of experts those two are. Too bad we did not have any chance to meet them.”

Huang Rong thought, “The Old Urchin is all right, but you’d better not meet the Old Poison.”

As Huang Yaoshi left, Lu and Cheng two people thought that they were alone in that inn; their hearts started to get devious. Lu Guanying circled his arm around his newly-wed wife’s waist and asked in a low voice, “Meizi [Little sister – term of endearment], what is your given name?”

Cheng Yaojia said with a chuckle, “I won’t say it, you guess.”

Lu Guanying smiled, “If not Xiao Mao [kitten], then it must be Xiao Gou [puppy].”

Cheng Yaojia laughed, “Neither. It’s Mu Da Zhong [mother big bug].” “Ah,” Lu Guanying laughed, “Then I must catch you.”

Cheng Yaojia wriggled and leaped over the table. Lu Guanying laughed and chased her. One ran, the other chased, they were both laughing and giggling, running around the inn. The starlight was dim, Huang Rong was unable to see these two clearly, but she could hear their laughter clearly. Suddenly Guo Jing whispered in her ear, “Do you think he can catch Cheng Da Xiaojie?”

With a light chuckle Huang Rong replied, “Certainly.”

Guo Jing asked again, “After he catches her, then what happen?”

Huang Rong’s heart skipped a beat; she did not know the answer. She heard Lu Guanying had succeeded in catching Cheng Yaojia, the couple then sat on the bench, hugging each other and talking in low voices.

Huang Rong’s right hand was holding Guo Jing’s left. She felt his palm was getting hotter and hotter, while his body trembled faster and faster. She was frightened, busily asked, “Jing Gege, what happened?”

After Guo Jing suffered a heavy injury, his internal strength considerably decreased, practicing this Nine Yin energy cultivation method required a clean heart, free from any devilish thought. Right now he heard that Lu and Cheng couple was talking and laughing intimately; at the same time right next to him was his own beloved beautiful girl. Gradually he lost control, his blood warmed up to the point of boiling. He turned around and stretched out his right hand to embrace her shoulder. But as she heard his rushed breathing and felt his burning hot palm, Huang Rong was frightened and busily said, “Jing Gege, be careful, quickly calm your heart.”

Guo Jing’s heart was shaken, anxiously he said, “I can’t. Rong’er, I … I …” He wanted to stand up.

Huang Rong was very anxious, “You must not move!” she said.

Forcing himself Guo Jing sat down; he tried hard to control his breathing, but his chest felt like it will almost burst open. “Rong’er, help me,” he begged. Once again he wanted to stand up.

“Sit down!” Huang Rong shouted, “If you don’t, I’ll seal your acupoint.” “Right,” Guo Jing said, “Quick! I can’t take it anymore.”

Huang Rong realized that if his acupoint was sealed, his internal energy flow would be blocked, then their two days of effort would be wasted and they would have to start from the beginning again. But his condition was critical, as soon as he stood up, his life would be in danger. So gritting her teeth her left arm made a circle with the ‘lan hua fu xue shou’ [orchid brushing acupoint technique] and struck the ‘zhang men’ [sealing gate] acupoint on the eleventh rib on his left chest.

Her finger was right on target, but unexpectedly Guo Jing’s internal strength was so profound that as soon as his body met an external force, the muscle automatically contracted and caused her finger to slip. Huang Rong struck twice in succession, both times missed. She was about to strike for the third time when suddenly he grabbed her left wrist.

It was almost dawn. Huang Rong saw his eyes were bloodshot like they were on fire, she was shocked; but she felt that he was pulling her hand while his mouth was mumbling indistinctly, as if he was loosing his mind. In desperation Huang Rong moved her elbow and ferociously bumped her shoulder against his arm. As the thorns on the soft hedgehog armor pricked his arm, Guo Jing felt a shot of pain and was startled. Right at that moment they heard the rooster crow in the village. It was like a strike of lightning clearing out Guo Jing’s mind. Slowly he put Huang Rong’s wrist down; his face showed great embarrassment.

Huang Rong saw sweats dripping from his forehead; his face was pale and he looked so weary. But she knew the critical moment had passed. She said happily, “Jing Gege, we have passed two days and two nights.”

‘Slap!’ Guo Jing slapped his own face and said, “Very dangerous!” He raised his hand to slap again. Huang Rong smiled and grabbed his hand. “That was nothing,” she said, “You remember the Old Urchin? With that kind of skill he still could not bear to listen to my father’s flute; much less you, who are seriously injured.”

In their excitement as Guo Jing was battling his own mind, they forgot to lower their voices. All Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia cared for was each other, so naturally they were oblivious of everything else. But lying down in the room Ouyang Ke was fully awake, with his keen hearing he heard everything, he could even vaguely recognize Huang Rong’s voice. He was surprised yet happy. He tried to listen carefully, but no more sound was to be heard. Both of his legs were broken, he was unable to walk, but by using hands as his feet he could stand upside down and he came out of his hiding.

Lu Guanying and his newly-wed wife were sitting side-by-side on the bench, with his left hand wrapped around her shoulder. Suddenly they heard rustling noise from the firewood. Turning their heads around they saw a man standing on his hands come out from the inner room. They were startled and quickly drew their weapons out.

Ouyang Ke’s injury was heavy, plus he had not had anything to eat for quite a long time, hence he was weak; suddenly seeing the bright flickering light of the blade he felt dizzy and fell down on the ground. Lu Guanying saw his sickly complexion; he rushed forward to help him sit on the bench with his back leaning against the table.

“Ah!” Cheng Yaojia called out in alarm, recognizing this man as the lecherous person who captured her at Baoying. Lu Guanying saw her frightened expression, he said comfortingly, “Don’t be afraid, his legs are broken.”

“He is a bad man,” Cheng Yaojia said, “I know him.” “Ah!” Lu Guanying exclaimed.

Ouyang Ke slowly woke up. “Give me a bowl of rice, please,” he said, “I am starving.”

Cheng Yaojia saw his deep cheeks, his eyes dull; he was not the same arrogant man who hurled insults to her. She was tenderhearted, plus she was a newly-wed, her heart was filled with happiness; thereupon she went to the kitchen and fetch a bowl of rice for Ouyang Ke.

Ouyang Ke ate one bowl, he asked for another bowl. After eating two big bowls of rice his strength returned. He looked at Cheng Da Xiaojie and his lewdness also returned. But he still remembered Huang Rong. “Where is Miss Huang?” he asked.

“Which Miss Huang?” Lu Guanying asked.

“The Peach Blossom Island’s Huang Yaoshi’s daughter,” Ouyang Ke replied.

“You know my Huang Shigu [martial (paternal) aunt]?” Lu Guanying asked. “I heard she has passed away.”

Ouyang Ke laughed. “Don’t lie to me,” he said, “Obviously I had just heard her voice.” His left hand pushed the table, his body flipped and he walked around the room with his hands. He recalled that Huang Rong’s voice came from the east side, but there was only a wall without any door on the east side. He considered carefully and came to the conclusion that there must be a secret in the cabinet. Immediately he pulled a table toward the cabinet, flipped his body over to sit on the table, and opened the cabinet door. Convinced that the secret passage must be inside, he was disappointed to see inside the cabinet was very dirty, unbearably filthy. He looked over carefully and saw some handprints on the dust covered iron bowl. His heart was stirred. Stretching out his arm he grabbed the bowl and tried to lift it up, but the bowl did not budge. He turned it around and with some creaking noise the secret door inside the cabinet slowly opened, revealing Huang Rong and Guo Jing two people sitting cross-legged inside the secret room.

He was delighted to see Huang Rong, but was scared and jealous to see Guo Jing by her side. After staring at them for half a day he finally asked, “Meizi, are you training martial art in here?”

Huang Rong had seen him through the small hole moving the table to the cabinet. She was sure they would be discovered soon, so she started thinking of ways to kill him. When the door started to move she whispered in Guo Jing’s ear, “I’ll lure him close, you finish him off with a Dragon Subduing Palm.”

Guo Jing said, “I don’t have any strength in my palm.”

Huang Rong was about to say something else, but Ouyang Ke had already seen them. She thought, “How can I deceive him so that he will go far away and let us pass these five days and five nights in peace?”

Initially Ouyang Ke was rather afraid of Guo Jing, but seeing his thin and pale complexion he remembered his uncle said that in the imperial palace he had injured him severely with the Toad Stance; if Guo Jing did not die, then his injury must be extremely heavy. Looking at their expression he knew that his guess was 70, 80% correct. He wanted to try again, so he said, “Meizi, why don’t you come out? It’s too stuffy and tight to hide in there.” He held out his hand to pull Huang Rong’s sleeve.

Huang Rong raised her bamboo stick and with a ‘bang da gou tou’ [stick hits dog’s head] she struck the top of his head. Her movement was very fierce; it was one of the deadliest stances of the Dog Beating Stick Technique. The stick carried a strong gust of wind, the oncoming force was swift and violent. Ouyang Ke hastily moved to the left to evade, but her stick suddenly swept horizontally. Ouyang Ke was startled, he somersaulted over the table and fell behind the table.

If Huang Rong could pursue, she would take advantage of this favorable situation and launch the ‘fan jie gou tun’ [flipping up and cutting the dog’s butt]; certainly she would be able to harm his life. But she was sitting cross- legged and must not move, so she cried out inwardly, “What a pity!”

Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia were shocked to suddenly see there were people inside the cabinet. By the time they saw clearly it was Guo Jing and Huang Rong, Ouyang Ke and Huang Rong had started fighting.

As Ouyang Ke fell down, his hands pushed the ground and he leaped back to the table and sat back down. He used the ‘qin na’ [grab and capture] technique trying to catch Huang Rong’s hand across the secret room’s door. Huang Rong’s Dog Beating Stick Technique was marvelous, but she could not move; besides, she had to take Guo Jing’s internal energy situation into consideration so that she could not use too much strength of her own. Ouyang Ke’s martial art skill was actually several times better than hers, so after more than a dozen moves she fell into a desperately dangerous situation.

Lu Guanying husband and wife drew out their saber and sword and attacked from both sides. Ouyang Ke let out a long laugh and ferociously launched a palm strike hacking toward Guo Jing’s face. At this moment Guo Jing was unable to exert any strength, so he simply closed his eyes waiting for death.

Huang Rong was shocked; she lifted up her stick to block. Ouyang Ke flipped his palm over and grabbed the end of the stick, pulling it out from Huang Rong’s hand. Huang Rong could not match his strength; her body staggered forward. She was afraid her palm would be separated from Guo Jing’s palm, so she let the stick go. Immediately she reached into her pocket and threw a steel needle out.

Those two were only several feet away from each other. By the time Ouyang Ke saw the flashing light, the steel needle was already in front of his face. Busily he bent his waist and threw his head backward, almost reclined on the table, thus evading the needle.

Lu Guanying saw his condition as if he was a sacrificial meat on the table, his saber chopped down toward Ouyang Ke’s neck. Ouyang Ke rolled to the right and with a ‘crack!’ sound his saber hacked the tabletop. Right at that moment he heard swishing noise of a steel needle above him and suddenly felt his back numb; one side of his body was paralyzed. He wanted to move aside, but his right arm had already been grabbed by the enemy from behind.

Cheng Yaojia was shocked and rushed forward trying to help. Ouyang Ke laughed and said, “That’s wonderful!” His hand moved so swiftly and grabbed the front upper part of Cheng Yaojia’s gown. Cheng Yaojia hastily hacked her sword down to cut his hand, while trying to leap backward at the same time. ‘Rip!’ Her gown was torn by his hand. She was so scared that the sword almost fell from her hand; her face turned deathly pale and she did not dare to rush forward anymore.

Ouyang Ke sat at the corner of the table. He turned his head around and saw the door to the secret room was already closed. Recalling his dangerous encounter with steel needles earlier he shuddered in fear. “This little girl is really not easy to fight,” he thought, “Aha! I got it! I am going to play around with this Cheng Da Xiaojie, let that kid surnamed Guo and the little girl hear it. Their concentration will be broken and thus their energy cultivation will be disrupted. I want to see if by that time she won’t listen to me nicely.” Thinking to this point he was very happy. He further considered, “This Huang family’s little girl is like an angel, nevertheless I have to make her willing to follow me for the rest of her life. It won’t be as much fun if I use force. I think it will be wonderful. Just marvelous beyond words!” So he turned to Cheng Yaojia and said, “Hey, Cheng Da Xiaojie, do you want him to live or to die?”

Cheng Yaojia saw her husband was in the hands of the enemy; she could not make any rash move. Hastily she said, “He has never wronged you, nor did he have any enmity with you. Please release him. You were very hungry a while ago. Didn’t I give you some food to eat?”

Ouyang Ke laughed. “How can two bowls of rice pay the price of a life? Hey, hey, you’ve never imagined that one day you Quanzhen Sect people will ask someone else’s help, have you?”

Cheng Yaojia said, “He … he is the Peach Blossom Island’s disciple; don’t hurt him.” Ouyang Ke laughed, “Who told him to chop me with a saber? If I wasn’t quick enough to evade, do you think my head will still be perched on my neck? Don’t you use the Peach Blossom Island to scare me, Huang Yaoshi is my father-in-law.”

Cheng Yaojia did not know whether he was lying or was telling the truth; she hastily said, “Then he is your junior. Just let him go, let him apologize to you later.”

“Ha … ha …” Ouyang Ke laughed, “How can there be such an easy thing in this world? You want me to release him? That’s easy, but you must do what I tell you to do.”

Cheng Yaojia saw the lewdness in his face, she knew he must have malicious intentions; hence she lowered her head but did not say anything.

“Look at me!” Ouyang Ke roared. ‘Crack!’ his palm hacked down and cut the corner of the table; making a neat cut as if the table was cut by an axe or a saber. Cheng Yaojia was stunned, she thought, “Even my Shifu does not have this kind of ability.” Ouyang Ke had been training martial art under his uncle’s tutelage since he was little; no wonder his skill surpassed Sun Bu’er who started to learn martial art in her adulthood.

Seeing the frightened look on her face Ouyang Ke was immensely puffed up. “You must do whatever I tell you to do,” he said, “Otherwise I’ll do this to his neck.” Then he made a hacking move. Cheng Yaojia broke in cold sweats and called out in alarm.

“Will you do it?” Ouyang Ke asked. Cheng Yaojia reluctantly nodded her head. Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “Good! That’s my good girl. Now go and close the door.” Cheng Yaojia hesitated; she did not move.

“You are not listening!” Ouyang Ke was angry. Cheng Yaojia trembled in fear; she did not have any choice but stand up and close the door.

Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “You two got married last night, I heard it clearly from the other room. It was your wedding night, but you did not take your clothes off. There is no such thing in this world. You don’t know how to be a bride, so I am going to teach you. Now take your clothes off. All of them. If you leave even half a strand of silk, I am going to send your husband returning to heaven, and then you will become a young widow!”

Lu Guanying could not move his body, but he could hear clearly. He was so angry that he felt his eyes were about to pop out of their sockets. He wanted to tell his wife to run away and forget about him, but his lips were unable to move.

When Ouyang Ke grabbed Lu Guanying, Huang Rong quickly closed the door to the secret room. She took her dagger out, waiting for his second attack. Suddenly she heard him ordering Cheng Yaojia to take her clothes off; she was angry, but at the same time found it amusing. She was still childish so even though she hated Ouyang Ke’s despicable behavior, she also wanted to know whether this girlish and bashful Cheng Da Xiaojie would follow his order or not.

“What’s the big deal about taking off all your clothes?” Ouyang Ke said with a laugh, “Did you wear anything when you came out of your mother’s belly? Do you want your pride or his life?”

Cheng Yaojia hesitated a moment, then with a sad voice said, “Just kill him!”

Ouyang Ke did not expect she would say such thing; he was slightly startled, but then he saw she lifted her sword horizontally across her own neck. Hastily he waved his hand, sending out a ‘tou gu ding’ [bone penetrating nail]. ‘Clank!’ her sword fell down to the ground.

Cheng Yaojia was about to stoop down to pick her sword up when suddenly she heard someone knocking the door, “Innkeeper, innkeeper!” someone called out. It was a woman’s voice. Cheng Yaojia was delighted, “Someone’s coming, things may change,” she thought. She busily bent down to pick her sword and leaped to open the door.

There was a young woman wearing white standing outside the door, with a white cloth on her head and a dagger on her waist. Her face was thin and pallid, but it was obvious that she was a beautiful woman. Cheng Yaojia did not care what kind of person she was, she already considered her to be her liberator. “Please come in Miss,” she quickly said.

That woman saw her exquisite clothes and adornment, her sweet and pretty face, also a sword in her hand; never in her wildest dream would she expect a desolate inn in this rural village like this would have this kind of innkeeper. She was dumbstruck. “I have two coffins outside, may I bring them in?” she asked.

If it were an ordinary house, the coffins may never enter in; but an inn was different. Besides, Cheng Yaojia was hoping she would come in quickly. She would not care if it was a hundred or even a thousand coffins, let alone only two coffins. She busily said, “Wonderful, wonderful!”

That young woman was taken aback, she thought, “What’s so wonderful about coffins going into an inn?” She beckoned outside and eight porters carrying two black coffins came into the inn.

That young woman turned her head and was surprised to see Ouyang Ke. With a ‘qiang lang’ sound she unsheathed the dagger on her waist.

Ouyang Ke laughed a big laugh and said, “The heaven has destined us to be together. You can run away, but you cannot escape your fate. It has delivered us good fortune, so we commit a great sin if we do not enjoy this blessing.”

This young woman was precisely Mu Nianci who was once captured by Ouyang Ke. After she broke off with Yang Kang at Baoying she cut her hair in grief, completely discouraged. Then she remembered there was one thing on earth she had to take care, thereupon she rushed back to the capital to fetch Yang Tiexin’s, husband and wife, bodies and brought them to the south. She wanted to bury her adopted father and mother at their hometown, the Ox Village of Lin’an; and then she was going to leave home and become a Buddhist nun.

At that time the Mongolian army was launching a large scale attack against the capital, they laid siege around the city. As a single woman traveling with two coffins in the turmoil and chaos of war, she experienced untold hardships, until finally she arrived at her adopted parents’ hometown. She had left home since she was five years old, and had never been to the Ox Village before. As she saw Shagu’s inn she was thinking of stopping by for some food and directions; who would have thought that she came across Ouyang Ke here.

At this time she did not know whether this beautiful woman wearing exquisite gown was her captor’s accomplice or not; when Cheng Yaojia was taken prisoner by Ouyang Ke, Mu Nianci was already hidden away inside the empty coffin. These two women had never met each other, so Mu Nianci thought Cheng Yaojia was one of Ouyang Ke’s concubines. She chopped her dagger toward Cheng Yaojia, then darting toward the door trying to escape. She heard the rustling noise of a clothes, someone was leaping over her head. Mu Nianci lifted her dagger up, Ouyang Ke’s body was still midair, his right hand’s index finger and thumb pinched the back of her dagger and pulled it away, while his left hand grabbed her wrist. Mu Nianci was forced to let her dagger go; her body leaped up and two people fell together on the doorway, halfway above the coffin.

“Aiyo!” the four porters cried out in alarm. The coffin fell to the ground, pinching five, six of the porters’ eight feet.

Ouyang Ke’s left hand embraced Mu Nianci in his bosom, while his right hand stabbed the dagger randomly toward the back of those four porters. The porters screamed in terror and scrambled anxiously over the coffin to run away. The other four porters also dropped their coffin and ran outside the inn; without asking for their money.

Lu Guanying tumbled down as he was free from the enemy’s hand. Cheng Yaojia rushed over to help him up. She was totally ignorant of what was going on around her; her mind was set on how to get away from the enemy. With Mu Nianci in his left hand Ouyang Ke pushed the coffin with his right hand, and leaped back to the table. He snatched Cheng Yaojia’s belt and very soon she was also embraced at the crook of his right arm. Ouyang Ke sealed both women’s acupoints and sat on a bench. He laughed and called out, “Huang Meizi, you have to come over here too!” While he was feeling smug, a shadow flashed in from outside; a young gentleman came in. It was Yang Kang. After he went out from underneath Huang Yaoshi’s legs along with Wanyan Honglie, Peng Lianhu and the others, they ran away out of the Ox Village. Everybody was angry at the humiliation they had just received; they hung their heads low and nobody said anything. Yang Kang thought if he wanted to seek revenge, he must find Ouyang Feng first, who had not returned from stealing the book in the imperial palace. Thereupon he asked for Wanyan Honglie’s permission and went back alone, waiting in the forest just outside the village.

That night Zhou Botong, Ouyang Feng and Huang Yaoshi three people came and go in a flash. With Yang Kang’s current skill level, he could not even see them clearly. Early the next morning he saw Mu Nianci bringing the coffins into the village. His heart pounded from excitement and he followed behind her quietly. He saw her enter the inn, and then saw the porters running away, he felt strange, so he peeked through a crack on the door and did not see Huang Yaoshi inside; but he saw Mu Nianci was embraced by Ouyang Ke in a frivolous way.

Ouyang Ke saw him come in, he called out, “Xiao Wangye [Young Prince], you came back!” Yang Kang nodded. Ouyang Ke saw his face looked unusual, he tried to console him, “In the past Han Xin had also received humiliation by crawling underneath someone else’s crotch. But a real great man can be bent and can be stretched. It was nothing. Just wait for my uncle, then you can extract your revenge.”

Again Yang Kang nodded his head. His gaze was fixed on Mu Nianci.

Ouyang Ke smiled and said, “Young Prince, what do you think of my two beautiful women?” Yang Kang nodded again. Ouyang Ke was not present when Mu Nianci and Yang Kang were jousting to find a spouse on the street of the capital; therefore, he did not know that these two had a deep relationship between them.

At first Yang Kang did not think much of Mu Nianci, and then afterwards he saw how much she was passionately devoted to him; his heart could not help but be moved by her love, hence he promised to marry her. Right now he saw Ouyang Ke was hugging her, his heart swelled with hatred, but he maintained his composure.

“There was a wedding in here last night,” Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “There is some wine and chicken in the kitchen. Xiao Wangye, I’d like to bother you to fetch the food, I want to drink with you several cups. I am going to tell these two beautiful women to strip and dance to accompany your drinking.”

“Nothing better than that,” Yang Kang replied with a smile.

To suddenly seeing Yang Kang, Mu Nianci was pleasantly surprised. But when Yang Kang did not pay her any attention, she was mad. Now she saw his frivolous expression as he was going to join Ouyang Ke in humiliating her, her heart turned icy cold. She was determined that as soon as her hands and feet were free, she would cut her own throat in the presence of this heartless fellow; and then she would forever be free from the anxieties of the world.

She watched him turn and go into the kitchen. He fetched the food and drink, then sat alongside Ouyang Ke. Ouyang Ke poured two cups of wine and held them up in front of Mu and Cheng two women’s mouths and said with a smile, “Drink this wine first, it will help to make your dancing more interesting.” The two women were very angry, but since their acupoints were sealed, they were unable to turn their heads away from the wine cups on their lips. Ouyang Ke managed to pour half a cup into their mouths.

“Mr. Ouyang,” Yang Kang said, “I admire your martial art skill very much. Let me toast you one cup before we enjoy the dancing.”

Ouyang Ke took the cup Yang Kang handed over; he drank it in one gulp, then casually he released the two women’s acupoints, but he placed his hands on the acupoints on their backs. He smiled and said, “If you listen nicely to what I say, not only you won’t get hurt, but I will make you happy!” He turned to Yang Kang and said, “Xiao Wangye, which one of these young girls do you like? I’ll let you choose first!”

Yang Kang slightly smiled and said, “Thank you very much!” Mu Nianci pointed toward the two coffins on the doorsteps and imposingly said, “Yang Kang! Do you know whose coffins are those?”

Yang Kang turned his head and saw on the first coffin there was a red piece of paper with this line of characters on it: ‘da song yi shi yang tie xin ling jiu’ [the bier of Yang Tiexin, a chivalrous warrior of the Great Song Dynasty]. His heart turned cold, but his face did not show anything. He said, “Mr. Ouyang, can you hold them closely for me? I want to see which one has the smaller feet. I am going to choose her.”

Ouyang Ke laughed and said, “Xiao Wangye is truly smart! I think this one’s feet are smaller.” While saying that he rubbed Cheng Yaojia’s chin before continuing, “I have a special skill. I only need to look at a girl’s face to know what her body looks like, from top to bottom.”

Yang Kang laughed, “Amazing! I am impressed! What if I bow to you and take you as my master? Then you’ll teach me this special trick.” While saying that he bent down under the table.

Mu and Cheng both women had decided that as soon as he touched their feet, they would kick his ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint on his temple. Yang Kang smiled and said, “Mr. Ouyang, drink another cup of wine, then I’ll tell you if your guess is correct.”

“All right!” Ouyang Ke laughed, taking the cup with both hands. Yang Kang glanced upward from underneath the table, he saw Ouyang Ke was drinking the wine with his head thrown backward; suddenly he took a broken spearhead from his bosom. He sent all his strength to his arm, from his arm to his wrist, lunged it forward and ‘Stab!’ the spearhead went five, six inches deep into Ouyang Ke’s abdomen. Immediately he somersaulted backward behind the table.

It was such a sudden change that Huang Rong, Mu Nianci, Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia were all startled. They only knew something changed, but nobody saw what happened under the table. Ouyang Ke raised his arms and pushed Mu and Cheng two women, they fell under the bench; and then he threw the wine cup in his hand out. Yang Kang ducked to evade and ‘crash!’ that cup hit the ground and turned into thousands of pieces; indicating the power behind that throw must be astonishing.

Yang Kang rolled on the ground, trying to escape to the door. Unfortunately the door was blocked by the coffins. He turned his head to see Ouyang Ke was standing on his hands on the bench, his body bent forward, his face looked like he was smiling yet he was not smiling, his eyes were staring at him with a weird expression. Yang Kang shuddered involuntarily. He wanted very bad to run away, but because of Ouyang Ke’s stare, his body stiffened like a corpse, he could not move.

Ouyang Ke looked upward with a laughter and said, “I, the one surnamed Ouyang, have been roaming the world for half of my lifetime; unexpectedly I have to die under this kid’s hands. One thing I don’t understand, Xiao Wangye, why did you kill me?”

Yang Kang moved his legs and leaped up; he wanted to escape outside the door before answering his question. While his body was still midair, suddenly he felt a gust of wind behind his back; the back of his neck was grabbed by a steel-hook hand. He was unable to continue his leap and was forced to land on the coffin, along with Ouyang Ke next to him.

Ouyang Ke said, “You are not willing to talk, do you want me to die with my eyes open?”

The acupoint on the back of Yang Kang’s neck was grabbed by Ouyang Ke; he could not move his limbs. He knew he would not escape alive, he laughed coldly and said, “All right, I’ll tell you. Do you know who she is?” While saying that he pointed his finger toward Mu Nianci.

Ouyang Ke turned his head and saw Mu Nianci with a dagger in her hand, ready to pounce forward to help, but she was afraid she might hurt Yang Kang; her expression was full or concerns, exactly like what Cheng Yaojia showed toward Lu Guanying. Suddenly it dawned on Ouyang Ke. He laughed and said, “She … she …” his words were cut short by coughing.

Yang Kang said, “She is my fiancée; twice you have bullied her. How can I let you go?” Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “So that’s how it is. We are going to hell together!” Raising his hand high his palm was ready to strike the top of Yang Kang’s head.

Mu Nianci cried out in alarm, she rushed forward to save him, but it was too late. Yang Kang closed his eyes ready to die; he waited for Ouyang Ke’s palm to strike down; who would have thought that after waiting for a while there was nothing moving above his head. He opened his eyes and saw Ouyang Ke was still smiling with his hand still high in the air, but his left hand, which grabbed Yang Kang’s neck, was actually relaxed. Hastily Yang Kang struggled free and leaped away. Ouyang Ke tumbled down on top of the coffin, his breathing had ceased.

After staring blankly for half a day, Yang Kang and Mu Nianci rushed to each other and held each other’s hands. They had countless words to say to each other, but neither one knew where to start. They both looked at Ouyang Ke’s body and still felt fear in their hearts.

Cheng Yaojia helped Lu Guanying up and unsealed his acupoints. Lu Guanying knew that Yang Kang was a Jin’s envoy. Even though he killed Ouyang Ke, thus Lu Guanying was indebted to him, he could not make an enemy his friend, so he simply cupped his fists in respect, then without saying anything he took Cheng Yaojia’s hand and they both went away. These two people had just undergone a thrilling experience, escaping a life and death situation; they completely forgot about seeing Guo Jing and Huang Rong earlier.

Huang Rong was very happy to see Yang Kang and Mu Nianci were back together; she also appreciated the fact that Yang Kang saved Mu Nianci from a possible disaster. Guo Jing also hoped that his sworn brother would change for the good. He exchanged a glance with Huang Rong, both of them broke into smiles.

They heard Mu Nianci say, “I have brought back your father and mother’s bodies.”

Yang Kang said, “Actually it was my responsibility. I have bothered Meizi so much.” Mu Nianci did not want to bring up past events; she simply discussed with him how to bury Yang Tiexin husband and wife. Yang Kang pulled the broken spearhead from Ouyang Ke’s abdomen and said, “We have to bury him quickly. If his uncle finds out, even if the world is big, there will be no place for us to hide.” Two people immediately buried Ouyang Ke’s body in the backyard of the inn; and then went to the village to hire some people to help them carry the coffins and buried them in the backyard of Yang family’s former home. Yang Tiexin had left his home for a long time that everybody who knew him had died. Nobody asked them anything.

By the time they finished burying their dead, the sky had already turned dark. That night Mu Nianci slept at a villager’s house, while Yang Kang spent the night in the inn.

Early morning the following day Mu Nianci went back to the inn, she was going to ask him what he wanted to do next. She saw him pacing back and forth in the inn, stomping his feet and complaining bitterly. She asked him what happened and Yang Kang said, “I was so muddle-headed to let those two people leave yesterday. I should have killed them to close their mouths. Now that they are gone, where can we find them?”

“Why?” Mu Nianci was surprised.

Yang Kang said, “If this fact that I killed Ouyang Ke ever leaks out, won’t that be a disaster?”

Mu Nianci knitted her brows in displeasure. “A real man is not afraid to take responsibility of his actions,” she said, “If you are afraid, you shouldn’t have killed him yesterday.”

Yang Kang did not say anything, he was busy thinking how to pursue and kill Lu and Cheng two people to close their mouths.

Mu Nianci said, “Even though his uncle is very fierce, we can run away to some far away place, he won’t be able to find us.”

Yang Kang said, “Meizi [sister/beloved], I have another thought: his uncle’s martial art is unparalleled, I want to take him as my master.” “Ah!” Mu Nianci exclaimed.

“I have had this thought for a while,” Yang Kang continued, “But they follow a very strict rule: they only take one disciple per generation. Now that this man is dead, his uncle might take me as his disciple!” He sounded very proud of himself.

Hearing his words and looking at his expression, Mu Nianci’s heart turned cold. With a trembling voice she said, “It turns out the reason you killed him yesterday was not to rescue me at all, but you have another agenda in your mind.”

Yang Kang laughed and said, “You are overly skeptical; for you, even if my body is crushed to dust and my bones smashed up to pieces, I am most willing.”

“Let’s talk about that later,” Mu Nianci said, “Right now, what are you going to do? Are you willing to be a loyal patriot for the Great Song; or do you still want to seek unlimited riches and honor, acknowledging an enemy as your father?”

Looking at her beautiful face and smart appearance Yang Kang was silently full of admiration, but listening to her talk exposing the content of his heart he was not pleased at all. “Riches and honor? Humph,” he said, “What riches and honor do I have? The Great Jin’s capital has fallen to the Mongolian army. The Jins were defeated every time they went out to battle. The fall of Jin country is the present disaster we are facing.”

The more Mu Nianci listened to him, the more displeased she became. “The defeat of the Jins is precisely what we are earnestly wished for,” she said with a stern voice, “Yet you actually feel sorry for them. Humph, what if the fall of Jin country is the present disaster? Is the Jin country your country? This … this …”

“Why are we talking about other people’s business?” Yang Kang cut her off, “I have been bitterly missing you since you left me.” Slowly he went over to grab her right hand. Mu Nianci could hear the tenderness in his voice, her heart softened; she let him pull her hand gently, without struggling she followed him, her face was slightly blushing.

Yang Kang’s left arm was about to embrace her shoulder when suddenly they heard bird cries high in the air; it was very loud and clear. They looked up and saw a pair of big white eagles spreading their wings flying across the sky. Yang Kang had seen this pair of eagles that day when Wanyan Honglie led a team of soldiers to pursue and kill Tuolei, and he knew that later on Huang Rong took the eagles away. “How did the white eagles come to this place?” he thought. He pulled Mu Nianci’s hand and hurriedly walked outside. He saw the pair of eagles fly in circles overhead, while a young girl was sitting on a steed’s back by the big tree outside; she was looking at a distance. That young girl was wearing a pair of leather boots, with a horse whip in her hand. She was wearing Mongolian attire, with a long bow on her back and a quiver full of arrows hanging on her waist.

The eagles circled overhead for a while, then they flew along the road. A moment later they flew back. And then sound of hoof beats was heard coming from the road, a number of horse riders came speeding by.

Yang Kang thought, “Apparently this pair of eagles is to lead the way so that these people can meet with this Mongolian girl.” He saw dust rose on the road and three riders were coming fast toward them. A swishing sound was heard, an arrow shot out to the air, coming this direction. The Mongolian girl extracted a long arrow from her quiver, drew her bow and shot the arrow to the air. As the three riders heard the arrow, they called out in delight, and rushed their horses even faster.

That young girl urged her steed forward to approach the riders. As they were about three ‘zhang’s apart from each other, the girl and one of the rider shouted and jumped from their saddles toward each other; their hands met in the air and together they landed on the ground.

Yang Kang was secretly startled, “The Mongolians are very proficient in riding and shooting techniques; even a young girl has this kind of ability. Is it a wonder that the Jins are defeated?” Inside the secret room Guo Jing and Huang Rong also heard the birds’ cry and the hoof beats coming near. After a moment they also heard several people talking and walking toward the inn. Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised, “How did she come over here? This is wonderful!” he thought.

Turned out the Mongolian girl was his fiancée, Huazheng; and the other three were Tuolei, Jebeh and Borchu. Huang Rong did not understand one word of Huazheng’s babbling of talking and laughing in Mongolians; while Guo Jing’s face turned green one moment and white another moment. His delight was replaced with anxiety. “My heart already belongs Rong’er, so I can’t marry her. But she has looked for me here. How can I break my promise? What should I do?” he thought in his heart.

With a low voice Huang Rong asked, “Jing Gege, who is this girl? What are they saying? Aren’t you feeling well?”

Several times Guo Jing had meant to tell Huang Rong everything once and for all, but always each time the words were already on his lips, each time he swallowed them back. Now that Huang Rong asked him, he could not hide anymore. “She is the Mongolian’s Great Khan, Genghis Khan’s daughter. She is my fiancée.”

Huang Rong was shocked; tears started welling up her eyes. “You … you have a fiancée?” she asked, “Why have you never told me?”

That day when Qiu Chuji and the Six Freaks of Jiangnan discussed Guo Jing’s engagement in the inn at the capital, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan did mention that Genghis Khan had betrothed his beloved daughter to Guo Jing, but at that time Huang Rong had not arrived outside the window yet; therefore, she had not heard about it and all this time she was not aware about this engagement.

Guo Jing said, “Now and then I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid you won’t be happy. Sometimes I did not remember this matter.”

“She is your fiancée, how can you not remember?” Huang Rong asked. Guo Jing was at a loss. “I don’t know,” he said, “In my heart I always regard her as my sister; we are like brother and sister. I don’t even want to marry her.”

Huang Rong raised her eyebrows in delight, “Why?” she asked.

Guo Jing replied, “The Great Khan decided this matter for me. At that time I was not unhappy, but I was not happy either. I only thought that the Great Khan’s decision must be right. But now, Rong’er, how can I leave you to marry another?”

“What should we do then?” Huang Rong asked. “I don’t know,” Guo Jing replied.

Huang Rong sighed and said, “As long as in your heart you are forever good to me, I don’t care if you marry her.” But a moment later she said, “However, if you marry her, I won’t like another woman to be with you all day. Perhaps one day I won’t be able to control my temper and make a hole in her chest with a sword, and then you will hate me. Enough talking about this, why don’t you listen to them and tell me what they say.”

Guo Jing pressed his ear to the small hole and heard Tuolei and Huazheng talk about what happened after they parted. It turned out that after Huang Rong and Guo Jing went down to the sea, the white eagles flew around in the wind and the rain looking for their masters. There was no place on the ocean for them to set their feet on, so they had to fly back to the mainland. They remembered their old home in the north, hence they flew to find their other master.

Huazheng was astonished to see the white eagles came back. She saw a piece of cloth tied on the eagle’s foot, with some Chinese characters carved on it. She took the cloth to some Han people in the army to translate. Turned out they were the ‘in danger’ two characters. Huazheng was concerned, so she went south immediately to investigate. By this time Genghis Khan was busy supervising the military expedition against the Jins; day after day the Mongolians engaged the Jins in fierce battles both inside and outside the Great Wall, so nobody stopped her when she expressed her intention to go to the south.

The eagles understood their master’s intention, they flew ahead several hundred ‘li’s to look for Guo Jing, and went back every night. In so doing they arrived at Lin’an. Guo Jing had not been found, they came across Tuolei instead.

Tuolei was sent by his ‘fu wang’ [father king] on a diplomatic mission to Lin’an, to solicit cooperation from the Song Dynasty for a converging attack against the Jin country. But the Song ministers and officials were enjoying peace and prosperity in the southeast; they also were afraid of the Jin’s army. They were thanking the heaven and the earth that the Jins did not attack them; how could they dare to pull a tiger’s whisker? Therefore, they were very indifferent toward Tuolei; they placed him in the guest house and did not pay any attention to him anymore. Fortunately Wanyan Kang was captured by Lu, father and son, at Lake Tai; otherwise the Songs would have received the Jins’ order and have Tuolei killed.

Later on came the news that the Mongolian army was moving fast and the Jin’s capital of Yanjing fell. The ministers of the Song Dynasty changed their attitude immediately; now they treated Tuolei as the Fourth Prince this and the Fourth Prince that, flattered him to no end. They went as far as agreeing immediately to form an alliance to attack the Jins; they thought if they could seize the opportunity to defeat their enemy without to much effort, then why not?

Tuolei was not happy, but he still agreed to sign the bilateral agreement with the Southern Song Dynasty to attack the Jins. That day he returned to the north, the Songs ministers respectfully sent him off outside the city gate. Tuolei did not feel like performing perfunctory propriety, so he simply slapped his horse and left.

Just outside Lin’an he saw the white eagles; he thought Guo Jing must be around, who would have thought that it was his own sister. Huazheng asked, “Did you see Guo Jing Anda [Mongolian for ‘sworn brother’]?” Before Tuolei could answer they heard clamoring noise outside the door; the sound of armors and horses. It turned out it was the Song Dynasty’s escort finally caught up with the Mongolian envoys.

Yang Kang was standing quietly at the door; he saw the Song troops were carrying a banner with these large characters written on it: ‘Respectfully sending off the Mongolian Fourth Prince to return to the north.’ He was unable to restrain having a disquieting thought, an extreme regret in his heart. Just dozens of days ago he was also a prince, an honorable envoy; today he was alone in the world and nobody paid him any attention. He had tasted riches and honor all his life, so it would be very difficult for him to throw away everything he held dear.

Mu Nianci watched him with a cold eye; she noticed his unusual expression. Although she did not know what he was thinking, but remembering that he had never forgotten the glory and splendor of being a part of the enemy, she was unable to restrain herself from feeling hurt.

The captain of the Song escort team went into the inn and respectfully appeared before Tuolei. He spoke with Tuolei for a moment before going back out and bark his order, “Go to every house and find out if there is someone surnamed Guo, Guo Jing, Guo Guanren [Master Guo – lit. government official] living in this village. If he doesn’t, ask where did he move to?”

The soldiers complied with one voice and immediately spread out. Not too long afterwards from the village noises were heard of chicken scrambling and dogs running, men crying out and women screaming; for the soldiers did not find the information they were looking for, so they helped themselves to plunder sheep and other belongings. How else would they punish the villagers for not giving out the information they wanted?

Yang Kang’s heart was stirred, “If the troops can seize this opportunity to plunder, why can’t I seize this opportunity to befriend this Mongolians?” he thought, “I will accompany them returning to the north and kill him along the way; that won’t be difficult. The Mongolian Great Khan will think it is the work of a Song man; hence the alliance between the Mongolia and the Song Dynasty will be broken. It will be a great advantage to the Jins.” Once his mind was decided he told Mu Nianci, “Wait here for a moment.” And in big strides he entered the inn.

The captain tried to stop him with a loud shout; holding up his hand in front of Yang Kang. Yang Kang lifted up his left arm and tossed the captain away. The captain fell backward and for half a day did not crawl back up.

Tuolei and Huazheng were startled. By that time, Yang Kang had already arrived at the center of the room. He took the broken spearhead from his bosom and lifted it high above his head; respectfully placed that spearhead on the table, and then he knelt down in front of the table, wailing loudly, “Guo Jing, oh, Brother Guo, you died a miserable death. I surely must avenge your death, Guo Jing, oh, Brother Guo.”

Tuolei brother and sister did not speak Chinese, but they heard him keep calling Guo Jing’s name, they were astonished. By that time the captain was crawling up with great difficulty, hastily they told him to inquire.

Yang Kang was crying and talking, tears streaming down his cheeks, in between sobs he said, “I am Guo Jing’s sworn brother, somebody killed Guo Dage [big brother] with this spearhead. That bastard is a Song Dynasty military officer; I think he received the Prime Minister Shi Miyuan’s inciting.”

As Tuolei and Huazheng, brother and sister, heard the captain translate what Yang Kang had said into Mongolian, it was as if they were struck by a thunder; they were speechless. Jebeh and Borchu remembered their deep friendship with Guo Jing; the four of them wept and beat their chests. Yang Kang also brought up the fact that Guo Jing routed the Jin army at Baoying to save Tuolei and the others; hence Tuolei’s suspicion was gone. They asked Yang Kang how Guo Jing died and who killed him. Yang Kang told them the killer was a Great Song’s officer by the name of Duan Tiande, and that he knew this person’s whereabouts, and that he was gong to find him to seek revenge; it was a pity that Yang Kang was unable to do it without help, he was afraid this task would not be easy to accomplish. The story just flowed out of Yang Kang’s mouth like it was a true story. In the other room Guo Jing heard everything clearly and he was frustrated. As Huazheng heard this story, she drew the dagger on her waist and was about to slash her own neck to commit suicide; but then she changed her mind and hacked the dagger into a table nearby. “I am not a human if I can’t extract revenge for Guo Jing Anda!” she made a vow.

Yang Kang was very happy to see that his plan was halfway successful; he lowered his head and cried some more. Suddenly he saw the bamboo stick that Ouyang Ke snatched from Huang Rong’s hand lying on the ground. It was deep green and clear like crystal, truly an unusual object; he knew it was an extraordinary stick, so he walked over and picked it up. Huang Rong was groaning inwardly, but she had no choice but to let him take it.

The troops came and delivered food and wine, but Tuolei and the others did not have any appetite. They urged Yang Kang to lead them to find Guo Jing’s killer. Yang Kang nodded his head in compliance; he took the bamboo stick in his hand and walked to the door. He turned his head and called Mu Nianci to join them. Mu Nianci shook her head slightly. Yang Kang did not want to miss this good opportunity, their personal affair could wait, so he went out of the inn alone. Everybody else followed him.

Guo Jing said with a low voice, “Didn’t he kill Duan Tiande at the Cloud Village a long time ago?”

Huang Rong shook her head, “I don’t understand it myself. Wasn’t it he who stab you with a dagger? This man is very sly, his thoughts are unpredictable.”

Suddenly outside the door there was someone reciting loudly, “Roaming to and fro, free without limitation; heart is free from greed, glorious body is free from disgrace! … Ah! Miss Mu, why are you here?” It was the Changchun Zi [Eternal Spring] Qiu Chuji.

Before Mu Nianci could reply, Yang Kang happened to be walking out of the inn. He saw his Shifu and his heart started thumping madly; this time they came face to face, there was no place he could hide, he had no choice but to kneel down and kowtow. Next to Qiu Chuji stood several people; they were Danyang Zi [Scarlet Sun] Ma Yu, Yuyang Zi [Jade Sun] Wang Chuyi, Qing Jing San Ren [Sage of Tranquility] Sun Bu’er, as well as Qiu Chuji’s disciple, Yin Zhiping. The previous day Yin Zhiping was beaten by Huang Yaoshi and he fell down and half the teeth in his mouth came off. Hastily he went to Lin’an to give report to his Shifu. Qiu Chuji was startled and angry; he wanted to go immediately to find Huang Yaoshi. Ma Yu strongly advised against his intention. Qiu Chuji said, “The Old Heretic Huang shared the same honor as our deceased master. Among us seven brothers and sister, only Wang Shi Di [younger martial brother] has seen his face at Mount Hua. Xiao Di [little younger brother] always admire him and wanted to see him long ago, I don’t want to fight with him; why did Da Shige [first martial (older) brother] prevent me?”

Ma Yu said, “I heard Huang Yaoshi’s temperament is strange, while your own temperament is brash and explosive; if you two meet, chances are that we won’t have an amiable situation. He spared Zhiping’s life, that means he is being lenient to us.” However, Qiu Chuji was adamant in going, and Ma Yu did not have any way to persuade him not to. As it turned out, all Quanzhen Seven Masters happened to be in the vicinity of Lin’an; thereupon they were summoned and the next day they went to the Ox Village together.

All Quanzhen Seven Masters gathered together carried a strong power, but they fully realized Huang Yaoshi’s ability, at the same time it was not clear whether he was a friend or a foe, therefore, they did not dare to be careless or indiscreet. Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi, Sun Bu’er and Yin Zhiping, five people went into the village; while Tan Chuduan, Liu Chuxuan and Hao Datong waited outside the village, ready to help. Who would have thought that they did not see Huang Yaoshi, but saw Mu Nianci and Yang Kang instead.

Qiu Chuji only snorted seeing Yang Kang kowtow, and did not pay him any attention. Yin Zhiping said, “Shifu, the Master of the Peach Blossom Island bullied disciple in this inn.” Initially he referred to Huang Yaoshi as the Old Heretic Huang [Huang Laoxie], but after being scolded by Ma Yu and the others he changed the way he called him. In a loud and clear voice Qiu Chuji called out, “Quanzhen disciples Ma Yu and the others pay their respect to the Peach Blossom Island’s Huang Daozhu [Island Master Huang].”

“There is no one inside,” Yang Kang said.

Qiu Chuji stomped his foot and said, “What a pity, what a pity we can’t see him!” Turning his head to Yang Kang he asked, “What are you doing here?”

Yang Kang was already scared to see his master and martial uncles, so he did not know what to say.

Huazheng had stared hard at Ma Yu for half a day, finally she rushed forward and called out, “Ah, you are the one who helped me capturing the eagles; you are the three-hair-bun Uncle. Look, those little eaglets have grown this big.” She let out a loud whistle and the pair of eagles came down and perched on her left and right shoulders.

Ma Yu showed a faint smile, he nodded his head and said, “Are you going south to play?”

Huazheng cried and said, “Daozhang [Taoist Priest], somebody killed Guo Jing Anda. Please avenge his death.”

Ma Yu jumped in fright; he translated what he just heard into Chinese. Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi were shocked; busily they asked further information. Huazheng pointed her finger toward Yang Kang and said, “He saw it with his own eyes; ask him what happened.”

As Yang Kang found out that Huazheng knew his Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle], he was afraid that if they talked too much their suspicion would be aroused; and then his plan to swindle these Mongolians without any effort would be thwarted. However, he could not talk irresponsibly toward his master and martial uncles, so he told Tuolei and Huazheng, “You go ahead and wait for me for a moment, I need to talk to these priests and then I’ll come along immediately.” Tuolei listened to the captain’s translation, he nodded his head, then led everybody to leave the village and going to the north. “Who killed Guo Jing?” Qiu Chuji asked with a stern voice, “Tell us, quick!”

Yang Kang considered his answer carefully, he thought, “Guo Jing was clearly killed by me; whom should I accuse?” He was undecided for a moment before he remembered, “I’d better mention someone with a high level of martial art; let Shifu find him and thus delivering his own life, then I won’t have any more problem in the future.” Thereupon with hatred in his voice he said, “It was the Peach Blossom Island’s Huang Daozhu.”

The Quanzhen Seven Masters had known early on that Huang Yaoshi wanted to pursue and kill the Six Freaks of Jiangnan, so it made perfect sense if Guo Jing died under his hands; they did not have the least bit of suspicion. Qiu Chuji cursed the Old Heretic Huang as the most evil person, and he vowed not to rest before dealing with him. Ma Yu and Wang Chuyi were very depressed, so they could not say anything.

Suddenly from a distant came the voice of laughter, followed by someone whose voice was like a broken cymbal, finally there was someone shouting in a soft voice; although the sound was low, it was heard clearly. Three different voices went around the outskirt of the village; and then suddenly it was as if they came from a faraway place.

Ma Yu was pleasantly surprised, “That laughter sounds like Zhou Shishu; he is still alive!” He heard three whistles from the east side of the village, going farther and farther away.

“Three Shige already give chase,” Sun Bu’er said.

Wang Chuyi said, “Listen to that broken cymbal sound and that soft shout; it seems like they are chasing Zhou Shishu.”

Ma Yu was worried, “Those two people’s martial art skills are not below Zhou Shishu’s; I wonder which experts are they? Zhou Shishu is facing two enemies, I am afraid …” He shook his head.

All Quanzhen four masters leaned their heads to listen for half a day, until the sounds were gone. They knew those people had already several ‘li’s away, so it was useless to pursue them.

Sun Bu’er said, “If Tan Shige and the others manage to catch up and render their assistance, Zhou Shishu does not have to worry.”

“I am afraid they cannot overtake them,” Qiu Chuji said, “It would be best if Zhou Shishu knew we are here and run to this village.”

Huang Rong found their reckless surmise ridiculous to hear, she thought, “My father and the Old Poison are competing leg strength with the Old Urchin; they are not fighting. If they were, and you – a bunch of stinky ox noses [derogatory term for Taoist priest] – want to help, do you think you are my father’s and the Old Poison’s match?” She had just heard how Qiu Chuji was cursing her father, she was not happy; while she did not mind too much that Yang Kang brought a false charge against her father as Guo Jing’s killer, because Guo Jing was in good condition and was sitting right next to her.

Ma Yu waved his hand and everybody went into the inn to sit down. Qiu Chuji said, “Hey, are you now called Wanyan Kang, or is it Yang Kang?”

Yang Kang saw his master’s eyes were glittering brightly, looking at him with a penetrating gaze, his face looked grim; he knew if he gave one bad answer, it would be difficult for him to keep his life. He busily said, “If not because of Shifu, Ma Shibo and Wang Shishu giving me directions, disciple still would have been in the dark today, regarding an enemy for a father; so naturally disciple’s surname is Yang. Last night disciple and Sister Mu here have just buried my deceased father and mother.”

Hearing him saying so, Qiu Chuji was delighted; he nodded and his face turned softer. At first Wang Chuyi reprimanded Yang Kang for jousting against Mu Nianci but not wanting to marry her; but now he saw these two people together he thought the two of them had sorted things out, his indignation toward Yang Kang vanished.

Yang Kang took out the broken spearhead with which he killed Ouyang Ke and said, “This is what’s left of my deceased father’s belongings; disciple always keep it with me.” Qiu Chuji took the spearhead and caressed it gently; his heart was filled with sorrow. He heaved a sigh and said, “Nineteen years ago, I came across your father and your Uncle Guo. Very quickly more than a dozen years have passed, two old friends have come back to the yellow earth. The two of them are dead, leaving me suffering on this earth. I was powerless to save your parents’ lives; it has been my life-long regret.”

In the other room Guo Jing heard Qiu Chuji fondly remember his own father, he was grieved. “Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest] still remembers his friendship with my father, but I have never seen my father’s face. Brother Yang was able to meet with his father, he is luckier than I am.”

Qiu Chuji then asked how Huang Yaoshi killed Guo Jing, and Yang Kang opened his mouth making up some stories. Qiu, Ma and Wang three people had known Guo Jing for a long time; they sighed incessantly. After talking for a while Yang Kang remembered he had to see Tuolei and Huazheng, his heart was restless.

Wang Chuyi looked at him, and then looked at Mu Nianci, “Have you two married?” he asked.

“Not yet,” Yang Kang replied.

“You’d better get married soon,” Wang Chuyi said, “Qiu Shige, why don’t you make the decision for them? How do you think we should handle this matter?”

Huang Rong and Guo Jing looked at each other, they both thought, “Are we going to witness another wedding tonight?” Huang Rong further thought, “Mu Jiejie [older sister] is hot-tempered, she is a lot different than that Cheng Da Xiaojie. Perhaps before she agrees to get married she would challenge that kid surnamed Yang for a martial art contest. Now that would be interesting to watch.”

She heard Yang Kang delightfully reply, “I rely on Shifu to make the decision.” But with a clear voice Mu Nianci said, “I have one condition you must fulfill; otherwise I won’t comply.” Qiu Chuji showed a faint smile listening to her; he said, “All right, what is it? Miss, please say it.”

Mu Nianci said, “My adoptive father was killed by that traitor Wanyan Honglie. Before we can get married, he has to avenge his father’s death first.”

Qiu Chuji clapped his hands and called out, “Hear, hear! Miss Mu has just said what’s in this Old Priest’s heart. Kang’er, don’t you agree?”

Yang Kang was very hesitant; he pondered deeply how to answer. Suddenly from outside the door a rough throaty voice like a mute’s hissing was heard, singing the ‘lian hua luo’ [fallen lotus flower], and then a high-pitched throaty voice called out, “Master, Lady, be merciful, spare this beggar some money.”

Mu Nianci thought this voice was somewhat familiar, she turned her head and saw that two beggars stood at the doorstep; one fat, the other short and thin, so small that the fat one looked three times as big as he was. These two’s postures were so unusual that even though it had been many years, Mu Nianci still remembered that when she was only thirteen she had tended their injuries. Hong Qigong was pleased that she had a good heart, for this reason he passed on some martial art to her for three days. She was about to go out and greet them, but ever since those two beggars enter the room, their eyes had never left the bamboo stick in Yang Kang’s hand. They looked at each other and nodded their heads, then they walked toward Yang Kang, cupped their hands in front of their chests and bowed respectfully.

Ma Yu and the others noticed the two beggars’ steps and body movement, they knew these beggars were not weak; they also noticed that each beggar carried eight coarse sacks on their backs; therefore, these two were the Eight-Bag Disciple of the Beggars Clan. Their positions were very high, but they were this respectful toward Yang Kang; Ma Yu and the others did not understand.

The thin beggar said, “I heard the brethrens say that some people in Lin’an City saw the Clan Leader’s Stick. We went everywhere to investigate, and are fortunate to see it here. I wonder where did the Clan Leader go begging?”

Although Yang Kang took the bamboo stick, actually he did not know the stick’s origin. Listening to this beggar’s words he did not know how to respond, so he simply uttered an ‘Hmm.’ There was a custom in the Beggars Clan that seeing the Dog Beating Stick was the same as seeing the Clan Leader himself; so even though Yang Kang did not pay any attention to them, they still looked respectful and cautious.

The fat beggar said, “The assembly at Yuezhou is getting closer; from the east Elders Lu and Jian have headed west seven days ago.”

Yang Kang become more and more confused, he uttered another ‘Hmm.’ The thin beggar continued, “In order to look for the Clan Leader’s Stick, disciples have been delayed for several days; so we must hurry along immediately. If Your Excellency decides to leave today, let disciples accompany and take care of you along the way.”

Yang Kang was inwardly excited, he had been trying to find a way to leave his Shifu; without caring what the beggars said, he wanted to grab this opportunity. Thereupon he prostrated himself in front of Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others and said, “Disciple has some important matter to attend, I cannot accompany Shifu much longer. Please forgive me for taking my leave.”

Ma Yu and the others thought that Yang Kang must have some important connection with the Beggar Clan. The Beggar Clan was the largest organization in the world. The Clan Leader Hong Qigong was a martial art expert who shared the same reputation with their deceased master, Wang Zhenren; therefore, clearly they could not detain Yang Kang. Out of respect to the two beggars, they felt it was inappropriate to ask more questions, so they simply paid their respects according to the Jianghu custom.

The two beggars had always admired the Quanzhen Seven Masters; knowing they were Yang Kang’s masters, they were more modest, kept referring themselves as ‘wan bei’ [juniors]. Mu Nianci talked about past events, the two beggars became more affectionate. Since she already had some connection with the Beggar Clan, she was also invited to the Yuezhou assembly. Mu Nianci wanted very much to travel with Yang Kang, so she immediately nodded her head.

Qiu Chuji was originally very angry with Yang Kang and wanted to cripple him to take his martial art skill away, but remembering the deceased Yang Tiexin he did not have the heart to do so. Now, first, he saw that Yang Kang treated Mu Nianci in an intimate manner, that simple ‘joust to find a spouse’ affair turned out good after all; second, Yang Kang seemed to learn good lesson from life experiences, he was willing to forfeit riches and honor, took the surname Yang as his own, so Qiu Chuji’s loving care in teaching and giving him guidance was not in vain; third, these two high- level Beggar Clan disciple seemed to respect him very much, it certainly would bring glory and honor to the Quanzhen Sect. Therefore, the fury in his heart was replaced immediately into delight. He gently twirled the end of his long moustache and watched Yang and Mu two people’s backs with a smile on his face.

That very evening Ma Yu and the others slept in the inn, waiting for Tan Chuduan three people to return. But all day the next day they did not hear anything about them; four people started to get anxious. Near midnight they heard a long whistle from outside the village. “Hao Shige came back!” Sun Bu’er said. Ma Yu returned the call with a low whistle. Not too long afterwards a shadow flashed by the door and Hao Datong flew in.

Huang Rong had never seen this person, she pressed her eye into the small hole to take a look. It was the fifth day of the seventh month, the crescent moon shone its light through the window opening. Under the moonlight she saw this man was big and tall, his appearance looked like that of a government official. His Taoist robe had short sleeves, stopped at the elbow; it looked different than the ones Ma Yu and the others wore. Turned out before he became a priest he was a head of Shandong’s Ninghai sub- prefecture’s rich family; highly educated, even managed to sell his divination skill. Later on he bowed to Wang Chongyang at the ‘yan xia dong’ [smoky red clouds cave] and took him as his master. Wang Chongyang took out his own robe, cut the sleeves and gave the robe to Hao Datong; saying, “Don’t worry that it is without sleeves, you will complete it yourself.”

The word ‘xiu’ [sleeve] was similar to the word ‘shou’ [to teach/to instruct/to award/to give]; the meaning was, no matter how much the master gives instructions, there will always be more to learn; whether the disciple enlightened or not, it depends on his own comprehension. He remembered his Master’s kindness very well, so afterwards he always wore the half- sleeved Taoist robe.

Qiu Chuji was the most impatient, “How is Zhou Shishu?” he asked, “Is he playing around with others, or is he fighting them?”

Hao Datong shook his head. “I am ashamed,” he said, “Xiao Di’s [little brother] skill is superficial, I only managed to pursue them for seven, eight ‘li’s before Zhou Shishu’s and the others’ shadows disappeared. Tan Shige and Liu Shige were still ahead of Xiao Di. Xiao Di was powerless; I tried to look for them one whole day and one whole night but did not have the slightest clue on where they were.”

Ma Yu nodded his head, “Hao Shidi [younger martial brother] is tired. Sit down and take some rest.” Hao Datong sat cross-legged. He circulated his ‘qi’ around his body one time, then he said, “On my way back at the ‘zhou wang miao’ [Temple of King Zhou (dynasty)] Xiao Di saw six people. Their appearance matches Qiu Shige’s description of the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. Thus Xiao Di came over to talk with them, and indeed it was them.”

Qiu Chuji was delighted, “The Six Freaks are very bold,” he said, “They unexpectedly went to the Peach Blossom Island. No wonder we could not find them.”

Hao Datong said, “The head of the Six Freaks, Ke Zhen’e, Ke Daxia [great hero Ke] said that they had an agreement to see Huang Yaoshi, therefore, they went to the Peach Blossom Island to keep their promise; who would have thought that Huang Yaoshi was not on the island. They heard Xiao Di mention Qiu Shixiong and the others are here, they said they are going to pay us a visit a little later.” Guo Jing heard that his six masters were well, his heart was greatly comforted. By this time he had trained for five days and five nights, most of his injury has been healed.

Toward the ninth hour [3-5pm] of the sixth day, from the east of the village came a long whistle. “Liu Shidi came back,” Qiu Chuji said. A short moment later they saw Liu Chuxuan, accompanied by an old man with white hair and white beard, walking toward the inn. That old man was wearing a yellow short robe, a pair of shoes made of coarse cloth on his feet, and a huge rush-leaf fan in his hand. He was talking and smiling while entering the inn. When he saw the Quanzhen Five Masters he simply nodded his head slightly, as if he did not regard them too highly.

Liu Chuxuan said, “This is ‘tie zhang shui shang piao’ [iron palm floating above the water], Qiu Lao Qian Bei [Senior Qiu]. It is truly our good fortune to see him today.”

Huang Rong heard this and almost burst out in laughter, she lightly bumped Guo Jing with her elbow. Guo Jing also thought it was funny. Both were thinking, “I want to see how else this old scoundrel will swindle people.”

Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others had heard Qiu Qianren’s fame for a long time, they had a profound respect toward him, so they talked to him with utmost respect and caution. But Qiu Qianren kept bragging unguardedly. After talking for a while Qiu Chuji asked if he saw their Shishu Zhou Botong. Qiu Qianren replied, “The Old Urchin? He was killed by Huang Yaoshi.”

Everybody was shocked. Liu Chuxuan said, “How can it be? Just the day before yesterday Wan bei [junior] saw Zhou Shishu; only he ran so very fast that I could not overtake him.” Qiu Qianren was confounded, he simply smiled without saying anything; his mind churning to find a good answer.

Qiu Chuji interrupted, “Liu Shidi, did you have a good look, the two people who chased Shishu are what kind of people?”

Liu Chuxuan said, “One was wearing a white robe, the other a dark green long gown. They ran really fast. Indistinctly I saw the one wearing green had a very queer facial appearance, almost like a corpse’s face.”

Qiu Qianren had seen Huang Yaoshi at the Cloud Village, he quickly opened his mouth, “That’s right! The one that killed the Old Urchin was this green-long-gown-wearing Huang Yaoshi. Other than him, who has the ability to do so? I was about to rush forward but I was one step too late. Ay! The Old Urchin died a miserable death.”

Tie Zhang Shui Shang Piao Qiu Qinren had a resounding reputation throughout the Wulin world; he was a senior with a high level of martial art skill. How would the Quanzhen Six Masters know that he was a blabbering mouth? Immediately they felt exceptional grief and indignation. Qiu Chuji slapped the tabletop so hard producing an earth-shattering noise; again he scolded Huang Yaoshi as a dog with head drenched in blood.

Huang Rong at the other room was very angry. She did not blame Qiu Qianren from spreading false rumor about her father, but she did blame Qiu Chuji for scolding her father repeatedly.

Liu Chuxuan said, “Tan Shige’s footwork is faster than mine, perhaps he saw how Shishu was killed.”

Sun Bu’er said, “Tan Shige has not come back till now, perhaps he also suffered harm under the old thief’s hand …” Speaking to this point her face turned miserable, she stopped talking immediately.

Qiu Chuji drew his sword and called out, “Let us go quickly to rescue and avenge people!”

Qiu Qianren was afraid they might meet Zhou Botong, he quickly said, “Huang Yaoshi is aware that you are all gathered here, he could look for you anytime. This Old Heretic Huang is so evil, the Old Man here cannot allow him to continue like this. I am going to find him; you wait for my good news in here.”

Everybody revered him as the senior, it would be inappropriate to defy his word; also they were afraid they would miss Huang Yaoshi if they were out looking for him, it would certainly be better to wait here for the enemy to find them and conserve their energy at the same time. Thereupon they bowed to express their gratitude and sent Qiu Qianren off to the door.

Qiu Qianren stepped over the doorstep and turned around to wave his hand, “You don’t have to send me off too far. Although that Old Heretic Huang is fierce, I have a way to deal with him. Watch this!” He drew the shining sharp sword from his waist and aimed it towards his own abdomen. “Hey!” with a grunt he thrust the sword in.

Everybody called out in alarm; they saw more than half of the three feet sword went into his stomach. Qiu Qianren smiled and said, “Any sharp weapon in the world won’t injure me. Please don’t panic. If I can’t find the Old Heretic Huang and he comes to find you here, don’t fight him, avoid getting injured. Just wait for me to deal with him.”

Qiu Chuji said, “The enmity of Shishu, it is impossible for the disciples not to avenge it.”

Qiu Qianren sighed and said, “That’s fine too, this is fate. If you want to seek revenge, there is one thing you must remember.”

Ma Yu said, “Please give us your direction, Senior.”

Qiu Qianren’s face turned serious, he said, “As soon as you see the Old Heretic Huang, kill him immediately. Don’t bother talking to him; otherwise, this enmity will forever be difficult to avenge. Important! Very important!” As he finished speaking he turned around with the sword still stuck in his abdomen.

Everybody looked at each other in amazement. Ma Yu and the others had vast experience, yet they had never heard of a sharp sword entering the abdomen and nothing happening; they thought this man’s skill must have reached a level beyond measure. They did not know that it was another trick of Qiu Qianren: that sword was actually consisted of three sections, as soon as a light force was applied to the tip of the blade the first and second sections would automatically retract into the third section, the sword edge went through a seam in the waistband, hence for the spectator at a distance it looked like the sharp edge was entering the body. He had been hired by Wanyan Honglie to incite enmities among the Jiangnan heroes and warriors, so that when the Jin army attacked to the south they would not be united to fight the invaders.

For the rest of the day the Quanzhen Six Masters were restless; they could not drink tea or eat their rice, they stayed awake until the midnight of the seventh day. They heard some faint whistles come from the north of the village, two people, on in front of the other, came swiftly to the outside of the inn. Ma Yu, all six people were originally sitting cross-legged on the straw training their breathing exercises, because Yin Zhiping’s skill was lower, he was sleeping. Hearing this noise they all jumped up immediately.

“The enemy is pursuing Tan Shidi,” Ma Yu said, “All Shidis, be careful!”

Tonight was Guo Jing’s last night to train and heal is injury. During these past seven days and nights not only his internal injury gradually healed, his external wound was also closing up, and both Huang Rong’s and his own internal strength had enjoyed tremendous advancement. These last several hours would be very crucial to the entire healing process. Listening to Ma Yu, Huang Rong was very concerned. “If the incoming person is indeed Father, all Quanzhen Seven Masters will fight him immediately. I won’t be able to come out and tell them the truth,” she thought, “I am afraid the Quanzhen Seven Masters will be injured under Father’s hand. I don’t care much for Quanzhen Seven Masters, but Jing Gege has a close relationship with Ma Daozhang and the others. I know his character well; it would be difficult for him not to come out and help them. If he bravely steps forward, not only the entire exercise will be wasted, his life will also be in danger.” Therefore, she quickly whispered in Guo Jing’s ear, “Jing Gege, promise me that whatever happens, no matter what important incident, you must by all means not go out.”

Guo Jing just barely nodded his head when the whistle had already arrived at the door.

“Tan Shige,” Qiu Chuji called out, “Tian gang bei dou [lit. sky’s stars north head – the Big Dipper constellation] formation!” Hearing the ‘tian gang bei dou’ four characters Guo Jing’s heart was stirred, he said to himself, “The ‘bei dou da fa’ [Big Dipper great method] is mentioned several times in the Nine Yin Manual as the foundation of learning the martial art. But the explanation of ‘bei dou da fa’ in the Manual is profoundly subtle, it was so difficult to understand. I wonder if Ma Daozhang and the others’ ‘tian gang bei dou’ has anything to do with the ‘bei dou da fa’. It’s surely important to know.” Busily he pressed his eye to the hole and looked out.

His eye was barely on the hole when he heard a loud ‘bang!’ the front door shook, and a Taoist priest flew in. But the priest’s robe was lifted up, his left foot had already stepped over the threshold, suddenly he staggered back out of the door. It turned out the enemy had arrived behind him and had launched an attack.

Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi flew together towards the door, standing at the entrance their sleeves rose up and two palms struck together. ‘Bang!’ they collided with the enemy’s palm. Qiu and Wang two people were forced two steps backward, the enemy also drew two steps back. Tan Chuduan took this opportunity to enter the room.

Under the moonlight his hair looked disheveled, with two traces of blood streaming down his face. The long sword in his right hand was only half of its original length, his overall appearance was a total wreck. As Tan Chuduan entered the room, without saying anything he sat down cross- legged. Ma Yu and the others also immediately sat in their respective positions.

From the darkness outside came a woman’s gloomy voice calling out, “Tan Laodao [old Taoist], if I did not regard the face of your Shixiong Ma Yu, this old lady would have already delivered your life to the heaven early on. Why did you lead the old lady to come over here? Who had just exchanged palm strength with me? Tell it to Mei Chaofeng.”

In the stillness of the night listening to her owl-cry like voice, although it was the middle of summer, involuntarily a chill crept on everybody’s back. As soon as she stopped talking the silence came back, outside the door the insects’ buzz was heard clearly. A moment later a series of cracking noises were heard. Guo Jing knew the noise came from Mei Chaofeng’s joints, in a moment she would start making her move.

Yet another moment someone was reciting softly, “Once one make a dwelling one can stay for several dozens years.” Guo Jing recognized it was Ma Yu’s voice, the intonation was really gentle and soothing. Tan Chuduan continued, “With disheveled hair walking all day long like crazy.” His voice was straightforward and heroic. Guo Jing peeked outside and took a good look on the Second Master of the Quanzhen Seven Masters. He saw a muscular face with thick eyebrows and big eyes, his body looked big and sturdy. Before he became a priest Tan Chuduan was a blacksmith in Shandong. After he entered Quanzhen Sect, his title was Changzhen [Eternal Truth] Zi.

The third Taoist priest was thin and small, his face looked like a monkey; he was Changsheng [Eternal Life] Zi, Liu Chuxuan. He continued the recitation, “Chongyang Zi [from ‘Wang Chongyang] underneath the ‘hay tang ting’ [ocean cherry-apple pavilion].” His stature might be small, but his voice was loud and clear.

Changchun [Eternal Spring (season, not water spring)] Zi Qiu Chuji opened his mouth, “Tai yi xian [I think he is a Taoist deity] in the lotus leaf boat.” Followed by Yuyang [Jade Sun] Zi Wang Chuyi, “Nothing can get out of an empty shell.” Guangning [Infinite Peace] Zi Hao Datong was next, “There’s someone who can reach enlightenment before being born.” Lastly Qingjing Sanren [Sage of Tranquily] Sun Bu’er recited, “Leaving home with a smile without any obstruction.” Ma Yu concluded, “Cloud in the West Lake, moon in the sky!”

Mei Chaofeng listened to these seven recitations, each voice carried an abundant ‘qi’ in it, a sign of their deep internal energy. She was secretly shocked, “Are the Quanzhen Seven Masters really here this time? It can’t be. Other than Ma Yu, the others’ voices are not the same.”

On the peak of Mongolian desert cliff she had heard Ma Yu and the Six Freaks of Jiangnan pretending to be the Quanzhen Seven Masters talking to each other. Her eyes were blind, so she depended a lot on her extremely keen ears; her memory was also superb, once she heard anything, she would not forget it. She did not know that Ma Yu was deceiving her that day.

“Ma Daozhang, you must be well since our last meeting!” she said with a clear voice. She knew Ma Yu was showing her mercy the other day. Although she was vicious, she knew the good from evil. When Tan Chuduan could not overtake Zhou Botong he decided to return. On his way back he saw that Mei Chaofeng was using a living person to train her martial art. Being a man of chivalry and righteousness, he went forward to prevent evil; who would have thought that he was not her match. Fortunately Mei Chaofeng recognized him as a Quanzhen Sect priest. Out of her respect to Ma Yu she did not kill him, she only injured him and chased him away.

Ma Yu said, “I am very fortunate! Thank you! The Peach Blossom Island does not have any enmity with Quanzhen Sect. Is your honorable master coming soon?”

Mei Chaofeng was startled, “Are you expecting my Shifu?” she asked.

Qiu Chuji called out, “Witch! Quickly get your Shifu over here to experience Quanzhen Sect’s real skill.”

Mei Chaofeng was angry, “Who are you?” she called out.

“Qiu Chuji!” Qiu Chuji said, “Haven’t you, the demon, heard my name?”

Mei Chaofeng cried out loudly, her body flew up to the direction of Qiu Chuji’s voice. Her left palm was protecting herself, and her right claw striking downward.

Guo Jing knew that this pounce by Mei Chaofeng was swift and ruthlessly fierce, it was really difficult to block, although Qiu Chuji’s martial art was good, he would not be able to take it head on. Who would have thought that he was still sitting cross-legged on the ground; he neither parried nor evaded. “Not good!” Guo Jing shouted inwardly, “How can Qiu Daozhang be this bold?” He saw that Mei Chaofeng was about to grab the top of Qiu Chuji’s head, suddenly two palm winds came from left and right; it was Liu Chuxuan and Wang Chuyi striking together. Mei Chaofeng’s right claw continued to strike, while her left palm swept horizontally to block Liu and Wang two people’s palm strikes. Who would have thought that these two palms were complementing each other, one ‘yin’ [negative], the other ‘yang’ [positive], the power, unexpectedly, was much stronger than the internal strengths of two people added together.

Mei Chaofeng felt this surge of power in midair; it was like a cannonball pushing her upward. Hastily she changed her right claw into a palm, striking downward then she flipped her body backwards and landed on the threshold. She was unable to restrain her shock, thinking that these two people’s skills were very profound, certainly above the Quanzhen Seven Masters. “Is Hong Qigong and Emperor Duan in here?” she called out.

Qiu Chuji said with a smile, “We are the Quanzhen Seven Masters. What Hong Qigong or Emperor Duan?”

Mei Chaofeng was puzzled, “Tan Laodao [old Taoist] was not my match; how come there is such an expert among his martial brothers? Could it be there is such a big difference in skill among them even though they came from the same school?”

Guo Jing in the other room was also puzzled; he thought that although Liu and Wang two people’s martial art skill was higher, they were more or less in par with Mei Chaofeng or with her senior. Even if those two combined their forces, they would not be able to casually throw her out like that. Only Zhou Botong, Hong Qigong, Huang Yaoshi, Ouyang Feng, and other people of their caliber would have this kind of ability; how did the Quanzhen Seven Masters manage to do that?

Mei Chaofeng’s temper was very bold; other that her own Shifu, she did not fear anybody in the world. The more she suffered setbacks, the more she would act recklessly. That day on the peak of the Mongolian’s cliff Ma Yu was speaking to her amiably, treating her in good manners and let her go without giving her too much difficulty. But today Qiu Chuji believed Qiu Qianren’s lies that Zhou Botong had been killed by Huang Yaoshi; he also believed Huang Yaoshi killed Guo Jing. His hatred toward the Peach Blossom Island went deep to his bones and marrows; he kept calling Mei Chaofeng ‘yao fu’ [lit. goblin/witch/devil/monster woman]. Mei Chaofeng knew perfectly well that her enemies were not her match, but she was not willing to give up. She only hesitated for a moment before she reached into her waist to pull her ‘du long bian’ [poisonous dragon whip] out. “Ma Daozhang!” she called out, “I must offend you today!”

Ma Yu replied, “You flatter me!”

Mei Chaofeng said, “I am going to use my weapon. Unsheathe your swords!”

Wang Chuyi said, “There are seven of us while you are alone, plus your eyes cannot see a thing. Even if the Quanzhen Seven Masters are unworthy, we cannot use weapons against you. We will sit and not move; you can start!”

Mei Chaofeng coldly said, “Do you want to face my silver whip sitting motionless?”

Qiu Chuji scolded, “Witch, tonight you will lose your life, what more do you want to say?”

“Humph,” Mei Chaofeng snorted. Her right hand flicked, the long whip full of hooks in her hand moved slowly like a big python straight toward Sun Bu’er.

In the other room Huang Rong listened their conversation; she knew how fierce Mei Chaofeng’s ‘du long bian’ was, the Quanzhen Seven Masters went as far as daring to take the whip sitting motionless and barehanded, she wanted to know how they were going to do that. She pulled Guo Jing away from the hole and told him that she wanted to watch.

She saw the Quanzhen Seven Masters sat in a formation inside the room; it suddenly dawned on her, “This is the Big Dipper constellation! Hmm, right! Didn’t Qiu Daozhang mention the Big Dipper formation?” Huang Yaoshi was proficient in astronomy and the study of calendar calculation (almanac). When Huang Rong was small she often sat on her father’s knees in a clear night, looking at celestial constellation, hence she immediately recognized the positions of the seven Taoist priests.

The Quanzhen Seven Masters’ Ma Yu took the ‘tian shu’ [sky pivot] position, Tan Chuduan took the ‘tian xuan’ [sky jade/gem] position, Liu Chuxuan ‘tian ji’ [sky pearl], Qiu Chuji ‘tian quan’ [sky power/authority]. These four people formed the head of the constellation. Wang Chuyi took the ‘yu heng’ [jade (measuring) weight], Hao Datong the ‘kai yang’ [open sun], and Sun Bu’er ‘yao guang’ [shaking ray (of light)]. These three were the handle of the Big Dipper.

Among the seven stars of the Big Dippers, the light of the ‘tian quan’ was the darkest, but it was the link connecting the head with the handle. It was the most important position; hence it was occupied by the strongest among the Quanzhen Seven Masters, Qiu Chuji. Among the handle, ‘yu heng’ was the most important; hence it was taken by the second strongest Wang Chuyi.

Mei Chaofeng’s ‘du long bian’ was moving toward Sun Bu’er’s chest. It seemed slow but it was very fierce; who would have thought that the Daogu [Taoist priestess] was still sitting motionless. Huang Rong followed the movement of the tip of the whip and saw that there was a skull embroidered on Sun Bu’er’s Taoist robe; she was secretly amazed. “Quanzhen Sect enjoys the reputation as a Taoist orthodox school, how come her clothing resembles something from Mei Shijie’s pathway?” She did not know that when Wang Chongyang took Sun Bu’er as his disciple he drew a skull and gave it to her. His meaning was that somebody’s life was short, that very quick death will come, and the person would change into a skull; so she must cultivate the true and admired ‘way’ [‘Dao’ of the Taoist means ‘the way’]. In memory of her deceased master, Sun Bu’er embroidered this skull on her robe.

The ‘yin bian’ [silver whip] seemed to move slowly, yet it carried a gust of wind. The tip of the whip was only about several inches apart from the embroidered skull on her robe, suddenly with an abrupt movement the silver whip flew back, just like a python when its head was chopped with a knife, or like an arrow it flew straight back towards Mei Chaofeng. It was so strange and swift; Mei Chaofeng only felt that her hand was slightly shaken and the wind had already caressed her face. Quickly she ducked and the silver whip brushed through her hair. “Dangerous!” she cried out inwardly as she pulled the whip back and re-attacked. This time the whip was aimed toward Ma Yu and Qiu Chuji, who were still sitting motionless. Tan Chuduan and Wang Chuyi raised their palms and parried the whip away.

After they exchanged several stances Huang Rong was able to see clearly that the Quanzhen Seven Masters always parry the incoming attack with one palm, while the other palm was holding the shoulder of the person sitting right next to them. Huang Rong pondered deeply and it dawned on her, “It turned out that they are using the same method I use to help healing Jing Gege’s injury. They are combining seven people’s strength into one; how can Mei Shijie resist?”

The Big Dipper Formation was Quanzhen Sect’s highest and most mysterious martial art, developed by Wang Chongyang with countless meticulous care. The main principle was combining forces in combat with a wide range of variations; it might even be used in the battlefield. When the enemy attacked, the one directly bearing the brunt did not need to exert any energy to resist; it was the companions on his/her flanks who would launch the counterattack. It was as if one person with several people’s martial art; the power was truly irresistible.

Several moves later Mei Chaofeng became increasingly panicked, since she realized that the enemy no longer fend the whip off and shake it away, but she felt the whip was being pulled and redirected so that the circle of the whip movement was decreasing, getting smaller and smaller. A short moment later as the several ‘zhang’s long silver whip was moving halfway toward the enemy, she could not pull it back anymore. If at this time she has let the whip go and jumped back, she might escape unharmed; but she had spent innumerable painstaking efforts in training with this long whip, how could she just sit quietly when the enemy was trying to snatch the whip away from her hand?

She hesitated only for a moment but her opportunity to escape was gone. Once the Big Dipper Formation started to move, all seven people moved swiftly as if they were one person, unstoppable unless by the person occupying the ‘tian quan’ position. By the time Mei Chaofeng realized her precarious situation, it was already too late for her to back off. The only thing she could do was clench her teeth, let go of the whip handle and stake it all.

Liu Chuxuan’s palm made a pulling action, with a loud ‘bang!’ the whip flew and hit the wall, shaking the whole building; the roof tiles rattled loudly and dust and debris from the roof fell down to the ground. Mei Chaofeng staggered; she could not resist this pulling force and was forced one step forward.

Although this one step was only about two feet, it was crucial in determining victory or defeat. If Mei Chaofeng had let her whip go sooner, she would not be pulled forward and she could turn around and escape out the door; the Quanzhen Seven Masters might not necessarily pursue her, because even if they did they might not necessarily able to overtake her. But now that she had moved forward one step, she knew the situation was unfavorable to her; she wielded her palms to the left and right, and they happened to meet with Sun Bu’er and Wang Chuyi’s palms. As she slightly added her palm strength, Ma Yu and Hao Datong’s palms came striking from behind. She knew perfectly well that if she moved another step, her situation would become more dangerous; but under the circumstances, she had no choice so her left foot treaded half a step forward. At the same time with a loud shout her right foot flew up and successively kicked Ma Yu and Hao Datong’s hands.

“Good skill!” Qiu Chuji and Liu Chuxuan cheered together, while simultaneously their palms struck, one from the front, the other from the back, to prevent her from continuing her attack. Before her right foot even landed, Mei Chaofeng’s left foot flew up and like a flash kicking Qiu’s and Liu’s palms; but as her right foot landed she moved one more step forward. This way she went even deeper into the Big Dipper Formation; she will not be able to escape unless she managed to overthrow one out of seven people.

As she was watching the battle, Huang Rong’s heart was secretly anxious. Under the pale yellow moonlight she saw Mei Chaofeng’s long hair flutter in the air as she was leaping around and her palms striking, her feet kicking. Each hand and each foot carried a light wind, like a tiger leaping or a leopard flitting about.

The Quanzhen Seven Masters were still sitting cross-legged; when the head is struck the tail responded, when the tail is attacked the head responded, when the middle is struck the head and tail responded, while all the time keeping her firmly inside the formation.

Mei Chaofeng had successively used the ‘jiu yin bai gu zhua’ [nine yin white bone claw] and ‘cui xin zhang’ [devastating heart palm] trying to dash out of the tight encirclement; but every time she was forced to go back by the Seven Masters’ palm strength. In her anxiety she let out a strange ‘wah, wah’ cry.

By this time if the Seven Masters wanted to take her life they would be able to do so without too much effort, but all along they had never launched a deathly strike. Huang Rong watched for half a day before she realized what was happening, “Ah, right! They are borrowing Mei Shijie to train this formation. It is not easy to find an opponent with her high level of martial art. I think they are going to weary her to death before they’ll stop.” Actually her guess was only half true; they were borrowing Mei Chaofeng to train their formation all right, but Taoism did not tolerate killing easily, therefore, they never had any intention to kill her.

Huang Rong did not have a favorable impression toward Mei Chaofeng, but seeing the Seven Masters humiliate her like this Huang Rong was seething with anger; so after watching for a moment longer she didn’t want to watch anymore and gave the hole back to Guo Jing. She still, however, heard the gusts of wind in the other room sometimes intensifying and sometimes slowing down, a sign that the battle was still raging. At first Guo Jing was puzzled to see the fight; he did not understand why the Seven Masters was fighting Mei Chaofeng by sitting in an irregular formation on the ground. Huang Rong whispered in his ear, “They are sitting according to the Big Dipper Constellation; seven people’s internal strengths are connected to each other. Do you see it?”

It was like a reminder to Guo Jing; he remembered the second part of the Nine Yin Manual mentioned the Big Dipper quite often. He had memorized this part by heart, yet he did not understand its meaning. Looking at the Seven Masters launching palm attacks while sitting in a formation suddenly he understood what the Manual was talking about. The more he watched, the happier he became, finally he was unable to restrain his excitement and stood up.

Huang Rong was shocked and quickly pulled him back. Guo Jing shivered in fear and immediately sat down. He pressed his eye against the hole and watched the fight again. This time he more or less understood the essence of the Big Dipper Formation. Although he did not know how to use it, each move and every style the Seven Masters used was like showing him the trick of the trade mentioned in the Nine Yin Manual.

The Nine Yin Manual was the result of a martial art expert Senior’s comprehension over ancient Taoist canon. Wang Chongyang developed this formation before he saw the Manual; however, the martial art study within Taoism came from the same root. The basic essence originally did not differ much; therefore, the variations within the formation were not far from the Manual’s basic content.

The other time on the Peach Blossom Island Guo Jing had watched Hong Qigong fight Ouyang Feng and he had gained tremendous advantage. However, he was slow, plus the Northern Beggar’s and the Western Poison’s martial arts were not based on the Manual; therefore, his comprehension was somewhat limited. This time the Seven Masters’ martial art and the position they assumed were based on the same Taoism essence with the Manual; everything seemed to fit perfectly and this time he truly gained great benefit. He saw Mei Chaofeng was in a difficult situation, but the Seven Masters’ palm strength was also gradually weakened. Suddenly he heard someone on the doorstep speak, “Yao Xiong, are you going to act first, or do you want Brother to try first?”

Guo Jing was startled, it was Ouyang Feng’s voice; he did not know when he came in. The Seven Masters were also surprised to hear his voice; they turned their heads toward the door and saw two men standing side by side on the threshold, one was wearing dark green long robe, the other was dressed in white. They were the two people who chased Zhou Botong the other night.

The Quanzhen Seven Masters made a low whistling noise, stopped fighting, and stood up. Huang Yaoshi said, “What a fine sight! Seven mixed-up hairs [derogatory term for Taoist priests] join forces against my lone disciple. Feng Xiong, if I teach them some lessons, will you say I am bullying some juniors?”

Ouyang Feng said with a smile, “They were being rude to you first; if you do not show your skill, these juniors will not understand the Master of Peach Blossom Island’s ability.”

Wang Chuyi had seen the Eastern Heretic and the Western Poison at Mount Hua; he was going to step forward to pay his respect to them when suddenly Huang Yaoshi’s shadow flashed and struck with the back of his palm. Wang Chuyi stepped back to evade, but he was too slow. ‘Slap!’ his cheek was squarely hit; he staggered and tumbled down.

Qiu Chuji was shocked, “Quickly return to position!” he called out; but ‘Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!’ Tan, Liu, Hao and Sun four people were slapped by a palm. Qiu Chuji only saw a dark green shadow flashing by; a palm hacked down right in front of him, the palm shadow suddenly fluttered. Qiu Chuji did not know where the attack would come from; desperately he raised his sleeve, striking toward Huang Yaoshi’s chest.

Qiu Chuji’s martial art was the chief among the Quanzhen Seven Masters; this strike was not a small matter. Huang Yaoshi had underestimated him a bit too much; unexpectedly he was struck by Qiu Chuji’s sleeve and he felt pain on his chest. Hastily he retracted his hand to protect his chest; his left hand went up and grabbed the sleeve, his right hand moved fast toward Qiu Chuji’s eyes. Qiu Chuji struggled with all his might and ripped his sleeve. At the same time Ma Yu’s and Wang Chuyi’s palms came to rescue him. Huang Yaoshi moved very fast; as soon as his strike to Qiu Chuji failed he leaped behind Hao Datong’s back and raised his left leg. ‘Bang!’ he kicked Hao Datong, sending him rolling down on the ground.

This time Guo Jing let Huang Rong look through the small hole. She saw her father greatly demonstrate his invincible might, she was very happy. If she did not remember that Guo Jing still needed two to four hours to recover, she would have already jumped up and cheered.

Ouyang Feng loudly laughed and called out, “Wang Chongyang had accepted this group of rice buckets as his disciples!”

Ever since Qiu Chuji started learning martial art, he never suffered such a defeat. “Return to positions!” he repeatedly shouted. But Huang Yaoshi flashed to the east and swayed to the west, and in a short moment launched seven, eight deathly strikes. Everybody was having a hard time to parry, how could they return to their formation? A couple of ‘crack! crack!’ sounds was heard; Huang Yaoshi snapped Ma Yu’s and Tan Chuduan’s swords, he broke and tossed them to the ground.

Qiu Chuji’s and Wang Chuyi’s pair of swords continued to move upward with the Quanzhen Sect’s subtle variations sword technique. As the pair of swords attacked together, their power increased exponentially. Huang Yaoshi did not dare to be negligent; with concentrated attention he launched several counterattacks. In the meantime Ma Yu took this opportunity to return into his ‘tian shu’ position while launching a palm attack at the same time, giving Tan, Liu and the others the opportunity to return to their respective positions.

As soon as this Big Dipper Formation was assembled, the battle situation changed. ‘Tian quan’ and ‘yu heng’ faced the enemy from the front; ‘tian ji’ and ‘kai yang’ sent out palm attacks from both sides, ‘yao guang’ and ‘tian xuan’ from the back circled to the front. With four whooshing noise Huang Yaoshi sent out four palm attacks toward four people. “Feng Xiong,” he laughed and said, “I did not know Wang Chongyang left behind this kind of skill!” His voice sounded effortless as his hands parried each opponent’s palm attack, each one substantially different from the other. Each one of these seven people’s attack carried an enormous power; it was incomparable to when they were fighting individually. Immediately Huang Yaoshi used his ‘luo ying shen jian zhang fa’ [falling (leaves) divine sword palm technique]; his body moved swiftly as if he was skating around randomly while his palms flew as if they were everywhere.

Huang Rong thought, “When Father taught me this ‘luo ying shen jian zhang fa’, I only know five voids one solid, or seven voids one solid; with the voids to distract the enemy. But I didn’t know that these five voids and seven voids can be changed into solids.” This amazing fight was certainly not the same as when the Seven Masters were fighting Mei Chaofeng earlier. Not only did Huang Rong watch the fight with baited breath, Ouyang Feng with his level or martial art skill was also startled.

Mei Chaofeng was standing on the side, listening to the wind generated by the battle. She was both joyful and frightened on the inside. Suddenly she heard an ‘Ah!’ followed by a ‘bang!’; turned out Yin Zhiping was watching eight people fight, he became dizzy as if the world was spinning around him; he saw many Huang Yaoshis moving around in front of him, his vision blurred and he fell backward, passed out.

The Quanzhen Seven Masters firmly held their positions, doing all they can to resist the enemy; they knew only one slight mistake was needed, and the seven of them would not live to see the day. Along with their demise, the Quanzhen Sect would see its fall. Huang Yaoshi was also groaning inwardly. If only he launched deathly attack a moment ago, he would be able to kill one or two enemies then the Big Dipper Formation would be broken. But because he had shown leniency he knew victory would not be achieved easily, while he simply must not lose. Both sides were like riding on a tiger’s back; they could not back off easily. All they could do was fight with all their strengths. Within less than two hours Huang Yaoshi had used thirteen different martial arts just to be even with the opponents. Eight people were inseparable until the dawn arrived, the roosters crowed and the sun started to cast its light into the room. By now Guo Jing had finished his seven days and seven nights training. Although the fight in the other room shook the sky and turned over the earth, his mind was very peaceful; his eyes closed, his internal energy was warming up his entire body, starting from his ‘wei lu’ [tail gate] going to his ‘shen guan’ [kidney pass], from his spine through both passes it ascended to ‘tian zhu’ [sky pillar] and ‘yu zhen’ [jade pillow]; finally to ‘ni wan gong’ [restrained pill palace], at the top of his brain, paused for a moment and then pushed his tongue against his jaw. His inner breathing went down from his face, ‘shen ting’ [divine courtyard], to ‘que qiao’ [magpie bridge], and back again until it arrived at ‘huang ting’ [yellow courtyard], ‘qi xue’ [air pocket] and slowly down to his ‘dan tian’ [pubic region].

Huang Rong saw his face was ruddy and resplendent in divine brightness; her heart was overjoyed. She pressed her eyes against the small hole again to look outside and she was shocked. She saw her father’s steps were sluggish; he moved according to the ‘ba gua’ [eight diagram]; while slowly launching palm attack by palm attack. She knew her father would not easily use this highest footwork technique. She knew that victory or defeat will soon be decided; it was a defining moment of life and death.

The Quanzhen Seven Masters were also fighting with all their might while shouting encouragement to each other. The top of their heads were emitting steaming mist, their robes were stuck to their sweating bodies. Their condition was totally different from when they were leisurely fighting Mei Chaofeng earlier.

Ouyang Feng was standing at the side with his sleeves down, looking intently at the Seven Masters’ Big Dipper Formation. He was hoping that Huang Yaoshi would be exhausted and suffer a serious injury so that on the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua he would have one less powerful enemy. Who would have thought that Huang Yaoshi’s martial art came out one after another; even though the Seven Masters were not defeated, it was obvious that they would not achieve victory easily either. “The Old Heretic Huang is really good!” he thought. He saw both sides moved slower and slower, a sign that the situation had become more critical than ever; in less than the time to drink a tea this battle would reach its conclusion.

Huang Yaoshi sent out two palm attacks toward Sun Bu’er and Tan Chuduan. They raised their hands to parry, while Liu Chuxuan and Ma Yu came to their rescue. Ouyang Feng let out a long whistle and called out, “Yao Xiong, let me help you.” He squatted down and thrust both palms ferociously toward Tan Chuduan’s back. Tan Chuduan was using all his power to fight Huang Yaoshi. Suddenly he felt an earth shattering force coming from behind with a lightning speed. Not only his martial brothers and sister did not have time to rescue, he also did not have time to evade. ‘Bang!’ his whole body was thrown forward.

“Who wants your help?” Huang Yaoshi roared angrily. Right at that moment Qiu Chuji’s and Wang Chuyi’s palms arrived together. He brushed his sleeve to neutralize those attacks, while his right palm blocked Ma Yu’s and Hao Datong’s palms.

Ouyang Feng laughed and said, “All right, let me help them then!” Suddenly his palms struck toward Huang Yaoshi’s back. When he attacked Tan Chuduan, he was only using 30% of his strength, but now he was using all of his lifelong cultivated energy; taking the opportunity while Huang Yaoshi was busy blocking the attack of Four Masters. He wanted to strike Huang Yaoshi down in one blow. He had planned it carefully: he would kill one of the Seven Masters and then kill Huang Yaoshi. As soon as the Big Dipper Formation was broken, he would not be afraid of their revenge. This evil scheme of his was perfect; even if Huang Yaoshi’s skill were higher he would not be able to resist Four Masters and Western Poison on his back all at once.

“I am finished!” Huang Yaoshi secretly sighed; he had no choice but to concentrate his ‘qi’ on his back, staking his all to receive the brunt of Ouyang Feng’s Toad Stance attack. Ouyang Feng’s push carried an enormous force, but the speed was slower. He was sure his plan would prevail, he was secretly delighted. All of a sudden a dark shadow flashed by. Someone from the side flew toward Huang Yaoshi’s back, receiving the hit with a loud shout.

Huang Yaoshi, Ma Yu and the others stopped fighting immediately and leaped back. They saw that the person who risked her life to protect her master was Mei Chaofeng. Huang Yaoshi turned his head around and coldly laughed, “The Old Poison is really poisonous, you truly live up to your reputation!”

As his attack accidentally hit someone else, Ouyang Feng cried out in his heart, “What a pity!” He was aware that if Huang Yaoshi joined hands with the Quanzhen Seven Masters, his life would be difficult to protect. With a loud laugh he flew out the door and ran away.

Ma Yu stooped down to hold Tan Chuduan and he was shocked. Tan Chuduan’s body was askew, his head was drooping to the side. It turned out this one strike of Ouyang Feng had broken the ribs on his back and his spine. Seeing his Shi Di’s life was cut short Ma Yu’s tears flowed down like rain.

Qiu Chuji pursued out with a sword in his hand, only to hear Ouyang Feng calling out from a far, “Old Heretic Huang, I helped you breaking the Wang Chongyang’s formation, I also punished the Peach Blossom Island’s renegade disciple on your behalf. You can take care of the remaining six mixed-up hairs by yourself. We’ll see each other again later!”

“Humph!” Huang Yaoshi snorted; he knew Ouyang Feng was spreading his poison again, trying to incite tension between him and the Quanzhen Sect by placing the blame of the killing of Tan Chuduan on his shoulder, so that the Quanzhen Sect would seek their revenge on him. He understood very well Ouyang Feng’s ill intention, yet he was not willing to explain anything to the Quanzhen Seven Masters. Slowly he held Mei Chaofeng up; he saw the blood spurting out from her to the ground, he knew she would not live.

Qiu Chuji pursued for dozens of ‘zhang’s but he could not see which direction Ouyang Feng took. Ma Yu was afraid if he was chasing on his own he would also fall into Ouyang Feng’s poisonous hand, so Ma Yu shouted, “Qiu Shi Di! Come Back!” Qiu Chuji’s eyes were on fire; he came back in big strides, pointed his finger to Huang Yaoshi and scolded him, “What enmity do you have with the Quanzhen Sect? You are a wicked ghost! First you killed our Zhou Shishu, now you harmed our Tan Shi Ge. Why did you come over here?”

Huang Yaoshi was startled. “Zhou Botong?” he asked, “I killed him?” “You still don’t want to admit it?” Qiu Chuji said.

Actually Huang Yaoshi was having a race with Zhou Botong and Ouyang Feng. They had run for several hundreds ‘li’s and were inseparable from each other; nobody was willing to give up. While they were running, Zhou Botong suddenly remembered he left Hong Qigong alone at the imperial palace. Hong Qigong had lost his martial art skill; if he was discovered by the palace guards, his life would be in danger. So he said, “The Old Urchin has a business to attend. I don’t want to race anymore!” Once he said he did not want to race, he did not want to race. Huang Yaoshi and Ouyang Feng could not make him do otherwise and were forced to let him go. Huang Yaoshi had wanted to ask Zhou Botong for news about his beloved daughter but all along he did not have the opportunity to do so.

Tan Chuduan and the others were pursuing behind, but very soon they lost track of the three’s shadows. However, Huang Yaoshi and the other two could see them clearly. So as the Old Urchin left to tend his business, the Eastern Heretic and the Western Poison two people decided to return to the Ox Village without expecting what was waiting for them over there.

By now Qiu Chuji was stomping his feet in fury, Sun Bu’er was crying while holding Tan Chuduan’s body. Everybody wanted to stake it all to fight Huang Yaoshi. Huang Yaoshi knew there was a misunderstanding here, but being a man of his position he simply laughed coldly without saying anything.

Tan Chuduan opened his eyes slowly and in a low voice said, “I am leaving.” Qiu Chuji and the others quickly gathered around him, sitting cross-legged on the ground. They heard Tan Chuduan softly recite, “Holding hands, the departed soul, like a string of pearls, forcing itself to leave. Hearts are open to the sound of nature, unlike the blowing flute.” As he finished reciting, he closed his eyes and died.

The Quanzhen Six Masters lowered their heads to pray. Finished praying, Ma Yu held Tan Chuduan’s lifeless body in his arms. Qiu Chuji, Yin Zhiping and the others followed behind without even looking back. At this moment Qiu Chuji, Sun Bu’er and the others realized that with the death of Tan Chuduan the Big Dipper Formation was broken. If they continued fighting Huang Yaoshi they would only deliver six more lives. Revenge had to wait some other day.